Spain being such a vast country, it’s coastline stretches from France all the way to Africa. Therefore there is a huge basin full of every type of fish and seafood imaginable right on its doorstep. The country’s inhabitants certainly make the most of what is on offer, their obsession coming from the catholic ‘fish on Friday’ rule (due to abstinence from meat). This tradition has created ‘a nation of fish fanciers’ who live, eat and breathe fish!
Our recent trip to Cadiz lay host to the fresh fish part of our journey. The first morning we arrived, we got up and without hesitation headed straight to the local fish market. Deserted for the majority of the day, the warehouse completely comes to life for a few hours every morning. With high expectations, the chaotic buzzing atmosphere did mot disappoint. Huge fish with eyes following you as you walk past, an array of every seafood imaginable under the sun, shells containing living creatures squirting questionable liquid every few seconds, local ladies doing their daily shop; all topped off by stall keepers melodically calling out what they have on offer (a fair few actually singing without shame as they happily go about their daily chores). This all may seem somewhat cliché, yet I assure you that it was every bit real! We wandered around, wide-eyed and mimicking the fish with mouths open, soaking up every last detail.
One fish that the Spanish seem to be obsessed with is merluza (hake). Therefore we decided to give it a try in a tapas bar one evening, ordering it a la roteña (a light, buttery sauce with tomato, onion and pepper). The fish was beautifully cooked, with plenty of flavour and meaty, yet still nice and light!
Our host, Chris, took us to ‘la freidura las flores’ to eat fish Cadiz style: frita (fried)! This perfectly sums up why we are so lucky to have a local to guide us, as we had previously walked straight past this eatery without being drawn in in the slightest. In Spain this is often the case: there is little fuss with decor; just good food, nice and simple! This local haunt is best described as a Spanish take on the British fish and chip shop. With a ticketed queuing system, (the first time yet that I have seen a functioning queuing system in Spain!) portions of seafood of all kinds wrapped up in paper were on offer. We were four, so chose portions of cazón (dog fish), chocos (cuttlefish), chipirrones (baby squid), puntillitas (mini whole squids) and huevas (roe). You could choose to have your seafood fried, fried… or fried (not recommended for the dieter!) but the batter was not too heavy neither over-powering. Chris bought a bottle of manzanilla sherry (to keep the local theme going) and we carted our bag of goodies back to the house and enjoyed our platters with no fuss: spread out on the paper, with a quick squirt of lemon juice and looking our over the rooftops of Cadiz… It doesn’t get much better than this… Or does it?! We have already had so many chance wonderful experiences that I just don’t know what to expect anymore! Bring on the rest of the tour!