Foodie Series: Sea Urchins and Fabada

photo 1Sea urchins? You mean you can actually eat those things?!

That’s right, folks. Sea urchins are edible. And yes, they do, in a really strange way, taste like the sea. Not in an overly salty, I just swallowed a gallon of sea water way, but in a reminiscent, oh look at the beautiful sea, kind of way.

Now, I used to be one of the pickiest eaters on the planet (when I first studied abroad in Spain I would go so far as to pick out the pieces of fish from a dish my host mom made me). But now, it’s a whole new ball game and I have changed from picky to foodie.

So, back to those sea urchins. Believe it or not there are different theories on how you can go about eating them. Some say that you should only eat the silky smooth orange part, while others say you can go to town and eat everything you can scoop out of the shell. I stuck with the more appetizing theory of orange part only – which, a quick Google search will tell you, are the sea urchin’s gonads. Yummy. No dressing, no seasoning, just straight up gonads. I can tell people I’ve eaten a sea urchin’s gonads! Awesome conversation starter.

After this weirdly appetizing appetizer, I finally got to try the infamous Asturian fabada. Each region of Spain has whatever typical dish their particularly proud of and I’d say this is the one for Asturias. All of my students asked me if I had tried it yet. Let me tell you, it is not a dish for the faint of heart.

This massive serving is actually the portion for only ONE person!

This massive serving is actually the portion for only ONE person! We couldn’t even finish it between two of us!

Fabada. It’s a very heavy, very tasty and very dense bean stew, made with fava beans. There are different variations of what else goes in there, but typically chorizo is in the mix along with some other choice meats.

Now, maybe it doesn’t look like a lot, but after a few spoonfuls of those giant fava beans, the bean and meat sweats come on super quick. They say that the reason why Asturians can put up with the frigid waters of the Cantabrian coast is because they have fabada to provide any internal heat necessary.

I didn’t dare to try to go for a dip in the water to test that theory in the beginning of January, but I will tell you that from eating part of this dish alone, I was more than happy to go for a two hour walk along the coastline to help digest!

If you’re ever over in Asturias, make sure you try some of their fabada. But, do yourself a favor, bring another person or two to help you eat it! And if you happen to be around in late January or early February, be sure to check out the festival of – you said it- sea urchin!

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