Percebes: Why Is Everyone Talking About This Pricey Alien-Like Seafood?

By Ellie Smith

6 months ago

Clue: Beckham.


The Galician seafood deliacy percebes is about to get its time in the spotlight – and it’s all thanks to David Beckham. The footballer posted snaps on his Instagram stories of himself tucking into the delicacy while on holiday in Spain, which he described as ‘one of my favourite things to eat when in season’. The strange appearance of the dish has caused something of a stir, with people comparing it to dragon claws and dinosaur toes. So what on earth are percebes, and should we be giving it a whirl on our next European sojourn?

What Are Percebes?

Also known as goose barnacles, percebes are a rare, expensive type of crustacean with an unusual look, hence their nickname ‘Lucifer’s Fingers’. Percebes are incredibly difficult to harvest: they are chipped off rocks in dangerous spots along the coast, particularly in Galicia in northern Spain, and in the Algarve in Portugal. 

As a result, they’re eye-wateringly expensive, costing up to £400 per lb, making them one of the world’s most expensive seafoods. A plate will typically set you back around £80 for a portion in a restaurant.

Percebes

Flavour-wise, percebes are very salty, and are said to taste like the ocean – something between lobster and clam. They’ll usually be served in a bowl with some sauce, or steaming hot on a plate. Eating them requires a bit of work: you’ll have to squeeze the shell to get the flesh out.

If you fancy cooking them at home, a 250g pack from The Fish Society will cost £24.50. On its website, it outlines: ‘Also known as percebes, the gooseneck or good barnacle is an expensive rarity, chipped off dangerous rocky chorelines by intrepid collectors. At this price, you can understand their motivation, so pay up and be grateful! A large barnacle is usually about 7cms long. To cook them, toss them into boiling water for two minutes, peel them while they’re still warm, and off you go. We should tell you that you will get a certain amount of genuine rock (as in, the cliff) in your pack because the barnacles are very firmly attached to it and would be damaged if removed before cooking.’

Beckham has spoken about his love for food and cooking before, most recently in his Netflix documentary, which gave viewers a peek inside his outdoor BBQ kitchen.