June 2, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Spain, Travel, Travels in Spain

Murcia is, um, different. Different like a lemon-flavored candy – not preferred by most, but probably someone’s favorite. And in my near-empty candy bowl of Spanish communities to visit, Murcia, until recently, remained unconquered. The Spaniards kept on assuring me that it was for good reason, however. Apparently no one seemed that crazy about the region squished between its more popular neighbors Valencia and Andalucia.

Fun and not so fun facts about Murcia: Known as “Europe’s orchard,” you can see its plastic-covered vegetable fields from space. That’s fun!!! Now for the not so fun fact: Sadly, a few weeks ago a 5.3 earthquake rocked the pueblo of Lorca (which I actually visited last November), claiming the lives of some 10 Spaniards.

Last weekend I made my second trip to the Murcia in order to give my scuba certification another go. While this time I did indeed get certified, it wasn’t without its hiccups. But hey, at least I didn’t feel like a soggy, near-frozen chorizo, so no complaints here. Beyond the scuba success, I also discovered that the region serves up some of the best seafood I’ve had in my life. Which, come on let’s be honest, is more than enough to make me forgive Murcia for what it may lack otherwise.

The scene of seafood euphoria: a restaurant called Varadero. The open-air, circular-shaped restaurant literally sits within spitting distance (if you’re a long-distance spitting champion, that is) of La Lonja, where fishermen bring their daily catches for auction. Entering the restaurant, hunger pangs immediately overcome you at the sight of their display of seafood and other freshly prepared concoctions. Welcome to my version of culinary paradise.

Getting down to business. First up were the chipirones (squid) grilled in a bath of garlic, parsley and olive oil – simple ingredients that together equal a food miracle. Jacobo and I agreed: they were the best squid we’d eaten EVER. And Spain loves its squid, so really we should be considered experts on such a matter.

Then came the octopus. I kind of felt bad about the octopus since earlier that day I hung out with one some 18 meters below the sea. He sure looked cute under his rock on the ocean floor, but I think he looked a lot better on my plate all doused in pepper and possibly crack. While I love my pulpo a la gallega (a famous Galician/Spanish dish with octopus, paprika and olive oil), this latest version made Mr. Octopus taste all kinds of unknown wonderful.

Finally – the chanquetes. Huh? “Basically little fishies,” Jacobo told me in an effort to warm me up to the idea of trying them. Sure, why not. Out came the plate full of white, wormy looking things, with black, bulging eyeballs staring at us as though surprised. Their unappetizing appearance reminded me of gulas, which could only mean one thing: they would taste far more awesome than they looked. And yep, they did! I still don’t know what they are, but really, who cares.

We were on a roll, so naturally dessert had to happen. Rattling off the postre menu, the camerero said a bunch of stuff that went in one ear and out the other, followed by something about cake, meringue, chocolate….and SOLD. In seconds we inhaled the piece of cake doused in sugary who-knows-what, layered with chocolate, and topped off with meringue that seemed to be masquerading as roasted marshmallow. Hungry yet?

So yeah, Murcia may not be the most-loved region in Spain, but I’d take its seafood over a lemon-flavored candy any day.

10 comments

10 Responses to “Murcia is different”

  1. Laura Says:

    Congrats on the PADI certification! I hope to see dive trip pics from around Spain.

    I am envious of the seafood you enjoyed! It’s hard to get fresh seafood when you’re landlocked and surrounded by mountains and desert.

  2. Erin Says:

    I wish it were a more exciting dive – other than the octopus, I didn’t see much else….other than the yummy stuff that ended up on my plate of course :).

  3. The Spain Scoop - Scoopette Says:

    those chipirones look amazing!

  4. Sailor Says:

    The squid look delicious!

  5. Sabrina Says:

    Glad you got your certification 🙂 Now, on to some warm & fun destination, so you can make good use of it 🙂

    The “little fishies” kind of gross me out a little… I think it’s the eyes staring at you!

  6. Erin Says:

    The sad part is that I’ve basically been deaf in my left hear since diving a week and a half ago (swelling or something) and we’re not sure if I should try again until I have stupid surgery for my stupid sinuses. Too bad we rescheduled our trip to Tenerife for July…I’ll probably go diving anyway and just deal with the consequences later!

  7. Sabrina Says:

    That sucks! Maybe you should go to an ear/nose/throat specialist and get cleared for diving before you go again. Would be bad to really damage anything. Sorry this whole scuba thing keeps giving you trouble!

  8. Erin Says:

    I did actually. Apparently what I have now isn’t anything detrimental – just very annoying. Regardless, I will probably get the surgery at some point just to avoid issues in the future. Darn it, I’m going to turn scuba diving back into a pleasant experience if my life (or my hearing) depends on it!

  9. business travel companies Says:

    Your post makes me feel hungry right at this moment. Look at how sumptuous that squid is.

  10. CarlaTorrez Says:

    Not easy to stumble upon your post on a diet! 🙂 I am a big fan of Murcia, I’ve been living here for 12 years now.

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