Vieiras a la Gallega (Galician Scallops)

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Spain, right above Portugal, sits Galicia. This pine-clad, hilly region has a long history, its own language (Gallego), and ancient Celtic and Germanic influences. This ancestry is reflected in the Gallegos themselves, many of whom have a fair skin and green or blue eyes. In fact, the region hardly seems to be related to the rest of Spain and is virtually untouched by the Moorish influence common in other regions. Atlantic storms lash the region but help make the waters rich for its fisheries. Galicia is blessed with deep estuaries which provide sheltered inlets for fishing fleets not unlike those found in Gloucester, Mass.


Their ties to the sea so strong, Gallegos have a particular fondness and appreciation for the fruits of the sea. Codfish (bacalao), squid (calamares), octopus (pulpo) and cigalas (a shrimp-like crustacean) play lead roles. Shellfish are widely enjoyed, and even goose barnacles (percebes) rank as a delicacy. The tiny shellfish are said to taste like lobster.

In Galicia, vieiras (or sea scallops) in particular are a much appreciated standard of the locals and visitors alike. Galicia has an abundance of scallops and the shell of the scallop symbolizes St. James, the patron saint of Spain. Pilgrims collected these shells on their journey towards the Shrine of St. James in the city of Santiago de Compostela (Santiago is Spanish for James). Throughout Galicia and the other regions, scallop shells are embedded in buildings and homes.


Served as an appetizer or first course, a Galician favorite is the commonly enjoyed but uncommonly good “Vieiras a la Gallega.” This recipe from the northwest is an easy dish to prepare and will be a hit in any seafood lover’s household.



Vieiras a la Gallega

Serves 4


  • 12-16 large sea scallops (preferably in shells. If not available, use aluminum shells slightly oiled instead and skip directions 1 through 3)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1/5 cup of brandy or Galician aguardiente de orujo
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • lemon or lime wedges


  1. Open up the scallops by steaming or placing in a hot oven briefly. Cut away the mantle (tough part) and the black area. The white and coral sections are edible.
  2. Separate the coral and reserve from the white scallop.
  3. Clean the shells and oil them.
  4. Place 3 or 4 of the white scallop into each shell (faux or natural) and place into a glass dish.
  5. In a frying pan, heat up the oil and sauté the onions and garlic.
  6. If applicable, chop the coral and add to the pan.
  7. Place in the wine and brandy, and remaining ingredients of paprika, salt and pepper, cinnamon and cayenne.
  8. Cook this sauce until it is reduced. Spoon it over the scallops.
  9. Top each scallop evenly with breadcrumbs and parsley and sprinkle the tops with oil.
  10. Place under a broiler or on the top shelf of a preheated 400°F oven.
  11. Just as the crumbs turn lightly brown, they are ready to serve with either lemon or lime wedges.



Other recipes by Veronica:

Swordfish Alicante Style
Torta de Nueces y Zanahorias (Carrot and Nut Cake)
Canelones Rellenos con Gambas
Pinchos de Gambas (Shrimp Skewers)
Sopa de Crema de Ajo (Cream of Garlic Soup)
Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)
Albóndigas de Arroz y Espinaca (Rice and Spinach Meatballs)
Crema Catalana (Catalonian Custard)


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