Polbo á feira

Polbo á feira

Polbo á feira (Galician language name literally meaning "fair style octopus") alternatively known as polbo estilo feira and pulpo a la gallega is a traditional Galician dish.

This dish is prepared by first boiling the octopus inside a copper cauldron and then trimming it. The trimmed octopus chunks are sprinkled with coarse salt and pimento picante and drizzled with olive oil.

Next, the octopus is repeatedly dipped in and out of the boiling water, while holding its head. The objective of this operation is to curl the tips of the tentacles. The tentacles are preferred over the head, which sometimes is discarded. The optimal cooking point is the one in which octopus is not rubbery but not overcooked either, similarly to the al dente concept in Italian pasta cooking. This is achieved after approximately a 20 minutes boil, provided that the octopus is left to rest for a further 20 minutes inside the boiled water away from the fire.

The dish is traditionally served on wooden plates, although the traditional plates are disappearing in some places for hygienic reasons, along with cachelos and bread. Tradition dictates that drinking water should not accompany octopus, so the dish is usually accompanied by young red wine.

It is somewhat paradoxical that octopus has been historically more widespread in the Galician hinterland than in the Galician coast. Traditionally, this diatopic use of octopus was facilitated by its inland availability as stockfish. In the last decades, frozen octopus has replaced dried octopus. Fresh octopus is not so frequently used nowadays either, as it is necessary to pound it heavily before cooking in order to avoid the dish becoming rubbery. This procedure can be skipped after freezing, which, unlike it happens with other fish, does not alter the organoleptic properties of octopus.

The provinces of Ourense and Lugo have by and large a reputation for good octopus cooking. Fair style octopus is the totemic food of the patron saint festivities of Lugo (San Froilán). Some Galician cooks specialize in this dish. They are usually women, known by the name of pulpeiras (pidgin Spanish/Galician name). After the modern decay of traditional rural fairs, many pulperías (octopus restaurants, by its Spanish name) have sprouted across the Galician geography. Pulperías tend to be rough-and-ready rather than refined restaurants.


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