Percebes – a bite of the sea

Clockwise from bottom left - Caracois, Percebes and CamaroesWhen Rui led us to Restaurante O Buzio at Nazare, we were not really sure what to expect. The restaurant was buzzing, and after our drive through the village with its tempting smell of grilled sardines and other specialties, we were hungry and ready to dig into anything that was placed on our table.

But the starters that came in, startled us. There were Percebes, Caracois and Camarões.   Sea snails yes, boiled shrimps certainly, but the Percebes were my first time and Rui promptly demonstrated how to nip of the head of the barnacle and get to the tasty meat inside.

Percebes or ‘Gooseneck Barnacles’ are a delicacy in Portugal and will not be found anywhere except in the really authentic seafood restaurants. These strange looking barnacle are found on the rugged coasts, more often near dangerous cliffs where the mighty ocean pounds the coasts with its roaring waves. Harvesting this delicacy is a dangerous task and fishermen risk their lives as they swim through turbulent waters to bring in a fair crop. No wonder they are available only in a few places, but relished by true sea food aficionados.

The barnacles are cooked for just a few minutes in sea water, with no other additives retaining the taste of the sea as you bite into them. Once you get the hang of it, eating Percebes is really easy –  just bite off the strong head that covers the body and suck in at the juicy meat moistened by the wonderful salty taste of fresh sea.

The Caracois (Sea Snails) too were delicious, well boiled for about 2 hours with a bit of olive oil, onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano, and with a little fork to dig them out of their shells.

Certainly, starters that you must start with!

The Buzio is a simple, yet typical seafood restaurant. It is located at 7 Rua Teofilo Braga at Sitio Nazare, or you could always book on the exceptional Faith & Heritage tour with Around Lisbon which would get you there in time for lunch.

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