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Eating Gooseneck Barnacles in Ecuador

ECUADOR | Thursday, 20 February 2014 | Views [6063]

Travelling along the La Ruta del Sol (The Route of the Sun), which is a scenic coastal route on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, our small group stopped at a village called Salango.

The population of this village is around 3,200 with ancestral roots, along with its history and culture, dates back to around 5,000 years. In the town’s main plaza the village houses The Presley Norton Archaeological Museum with over 245 pieces of pre-Columbian ceramics which date from the year 5,000 to 1,500.

On the other side of the plaza is another, different kind of interesting, place. The Delfin Mágico or Magic Dolphin restaurant a family operated business which opened its doors in 1988 as this entrepreneurial family saw a need for the hungry tourists who were visiting their home.

It is well known for its superb fresh seafood plates such as lobster, prawns, octopus, and scallops - even Ecuadorians travel from far to feast on the wonderful fresh sea food. But we had heard that the speciality in this restaurant is the appetizer Percebes (or Goose Neck Barnacles) which everyone we were told should try.

I was hungry and although I have eaten many strange things in my life I was not actually feeling the urge to eat barnacles. We were told by a local Ecuadorian that they are an absolute delicacy and if you were in Spain you would probably pay around $100 US per kilo. However, here at the Delfin Mágico this delicacy was $10 US per platter.

We ordered two platters as there were a few of us, and we were told that once we started we would not be able to stop. Finally the Percebes arrived on silver platters which were piled high with these strange looking sea monster creatures. It reminded me of something out of a space odyssey movie as a creature from another planet which appeared to have many tentacles reaching out to us. At the end of each of these sea monster looking tentacles is a triangular head in the shape of a sharks tooth. This head is covered with a beautiful green and pink mosaic shell. Apparently the shell ends hold the sex organs so we were told it was up to us if we wanted to eat them.

Right at that moment I just wanted to taste the fleshy part of the barnacle before deciding whether to eat the sex organ! Who would ever have thought that I would be eating barnacles? At first glance I had absolutely no idea of what or how I was going to eat this creature. So the waitress seeing our despair came over and explained that we needed to get to the fleshy morsel that lives inside the skin of the Percebes. To do this he said we had to grab the shell between the thumb and first finger with one hand and with the other hand hold the tentacle and then twist the shell in the opposite direction. Viola the fleshy dark morsel inside slips out of the skin while still attached to the head.

You then dip the fleshy morsel into the fresh lime and cilantro sauce. Some are a little messy and may cause a spray over your clothes and others nearby, but guarantees that the barnacles you are eating are fresh. At first I was not sure about what I thought but then I started to absolutely enjoy the fleshy texture which to me tasted like scallops. But did I eat the sex organ? With that shark tooth looking head?...no!

About the Author

Dixie Davey lived in Ecuador for 3 years and then Thailand for 1 year before returning to Australia. Her love travel and writing while in Ecuador (2008) inspired her to start the website www.retire-in-ecuador.com. Her life has been blessed with many travels around the world but she still has a lot to see with many stories to share. You can also find her on facebook.

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Tags: barnacles, ecuador, food, travel

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