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Moonlight Seafood – The Culinary Canchalagua Adventure

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Ecuador | 1 comment

A Culinary Moonlight Seafood Adventure

During my many years as a chef and working in different countries, visiting many cities around the world, I have found that there is always something new to try. New food to discover, new flavors that will surprise even the most renowned gourmet.

My previous article about Galapagos Island Food discusses delicacies available on this magical Island in the Pacific Ocean. I discovered a new dish here that was a great surprise. It was something completely new and outstanding, named by the locals; Canchalagua – a true Moonlight seafood adventure.

Moonlight Fishing Galapagos Islands By Sebastian Vallejo
Moonlight Fishing Galapagos Islands By Sebastian Vallejo

Canchalagua is known as Chiton Magnificus, which is a species of edible chiton that belongs to the family of mollusks. They can grow to be the length of 50.2 millimeters (1.98 in).

This sea creature lives attached to the coastal rocks and can be found from the Galapagos Islands at the equator, to Cape Horn, 55° South of Chile, Haida Gwaii, Ecuador, and Peru. It’s mostly offered in the Galapagos Islands and traditionally eaten by locals.

However, you may wonder why I called this column “Moon Light Seafood”? Well, because this sea mollusk by tradition is only captured during a full moon.

Historically, fishermen would go during low tide to the bays of the islands to look for them. When the full moon shines its natural light, the volcanic rock of the Galapagos Islands displayed a magical ‘star-like’ glow in the rocks, making it easy to see the mollusk.

They would appear as the only dark spots that they’d see, marked by its unique color. Then the fishermen would use a small spatula to separate them from the rock.

Fishing by Sebastian Vallejo
Fishing by Sebastian Vallejo

But after learning this I asked myself, how would I prepare this mollusk? What kind of texture does it have? What does it taste like? To my surprise, it was nothing like I expected! Before preparing, they recommend soaking it in water to remove all traces of sand and volcanic rock powder. After that is removed, cut around the shelf inside; it is soft and relatively easy to do. Once you have cut it out, you need to peel away the membrane, which has a slimy texture. Then cut the mollusk into small pieces, ready for cooking. I liken it to cleaning calamari or octopus. The person who showed me how to prepare it said that it can be fixed in many ways. However, you will find it mostly served a ceviche or sauteed.

Moonlight Seafood: My Sauteed Canchalagua

  • Preheat the pan using medium heat. Place a bit of butter.
  • Add garlic paste and minced onions.
  • Once the garlic and onions are caramelized, add the canchalagua.
  • Cook it for a short time, like calamari, because it overcooks easily. It can easily turn rubbery and hard to eat.

 

We now come to the moment of truth; the first bite. To be honest, I was nervous at first.

My Sauteed Canchalagua by Sebastian Vallejo
My Sauteed Canchalagua by Sebastian Vallejo

When trying a new dish, most of us have a feeling of suspense with different expectations.

I was not disappointed: what a fantastic flavor and texture. I liked it right away.

It had a light, chewy texture, like well-cooked calamari or octopus with a unique flavor. It is hard to pinpoint the taste right away because you get a mixture of shrimp with a very mild peanut taste (do not worry if you are allergic to nuts.

It will not give you an allergic reaction), The taste develops to a very mild cucumber mixed with pistachio so soft that it does not make it bad, just unique, you can’t stop eating it.

For me, this was a unique experience. As a Chef, I try cooking it in different ways. Moonlight food!

So for those of you that are planning to come to visit the Galapagos Islands, I highly recommend you try the mollusk. It will be a great culinary adventure. If it is well prepared like it was for me, then I am pretty sure you will like it, too. It is liberating to open ones’ mind to trying new things.

Share your experience if you had this dish already and let us know how you liked it.

by: Sebastian Vallejo

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