How to order fish and seafood in Spain

We reckon the Spanish do fish and seafood better than anyone. But how do you know what you’re ordering?

Here in Villajoyosa (aka La Vila Joiosa), there is a bewildering variety on offer, much of it caught locally. Many restaurants have menus in English, but the fishy translations below should help you find your way around any language difficulties.


Lubina: sea bass in English

A spectacular display at a Spanish fish counter

FISH (pescados) * signifies fish landed in La Vila port. Look for the Cofradia de Pescadores logo to buy locally.

  • Atún*: tuna  
  • Anchoas*: anchovies 
  • Bacoreta*: tunny/little tunny
  • Besugo*: red bream
  • Boquerones: anchovies marinaded in olive oil. 
  • Boquerones fritos: fried anchovies
  • Bacalao: cod
  • Bonito: skipjack tuna
  • Caballa*: mackerel 
  • Corvina*: stone bass or meagre. Often wrongly translated as sea bass, but it is a different species.
    Cofradia de Villajoyosa
    The ticket that shows the catch was landed on Villajoyosa fish quay
  • Congrio*: conger eel
  • Dentón*: dentex. No, I’d never heard of it either, but it’s common in the Med and similar to bream.
  • Dorada*: gilt head bream 
    DORADA (1)
    Dorada: gilt head bream
  • Emperador*: swordfish (see also pez espada)
  • Gallineta*: redfish or ocean perch
  • Gallo San Pedro*: John Dory
  • Gato*: dogfish or catshark (also known as musola)
  • Jurel*(or Jurel Grande): horse mackerel or scad 
  • Lenguado*: sole  
  • Lubina*: sea bass (often farmed; the fish farm off Villajoyosa breeds lubina)
  • Maragota: ballan wrasse (a new one on me, but a distinctive red-coloured fish)
  • Merluza*: hake
  • Musola*: see Gato 
  • Morralla*: assortment of small fish
  • Mero*: grouper 
    Pargo, aka snapper

    Trucha arco iris: rainbow trout
  • Pargo*: snapper
  • Pescaditos fritos: assortment of small fried fish
  • Pez Espada*: swordfish
  • Rape* (pronounced ‘rap-eh’): monkfish  

    Rape: monkfish. Probably the ugliest fish in the sea, but also one of the tastiest!
  • Raya*: skate (ala de raya: skate wing)
  • Rodaballo*: turbot
  • Salmonetes*: red mullet  
  • Salmón: salmon
  • Sardinas*: sardines 
  • Trucha: trout
  • Trucha arco iris: rainbow trout

SEAFOOD (mariscos) * signifies seafood landed in La Vila port

  • Almejas: clams (also known as chirlas)
  • Berberechos: cockles
Gambas: king prawns
Quisquillas: shrimps
  • Bogavante: lobster (aka langosta). Langosta and bogavante are different types of lobster; bogavante has large front claws, langosta has long antennae. When they’re alive langostas are a dark orange colour, while bogavantes look dark blue.  They both turn pinkish when cooked.

    Bogavante (lobster) easily identified by their giant claws. Langostas (also translated in English as lobster) don’t have the claws, but do have long antennae.
  • Buey: crab (see also cangrejo)
  • Canailla: sea snails
  • Cangrejo*: crab
  • Calamar*: squid (see also pota)
  • Carabinero*: red prawn (beware – these are a lot pricier than normal prawns!)
  • Chipirones*: baby squid
  • Chirlas: clams (see almejas)
  • Cigalas*: langoustine (sometimes called Norway Lobster or Dublin Bay prawn)
  • Clochinas or clochinas malla: smaller Mediterranean mussels from Valencia and Sagunto
  • Erizos de mar: sea urchins (literal translation, sea hedghog).  A speciality of Cádiz
    Sepia aka cuttlefish
    Sepia (cuttlefish). Delicious a la plancha…on the grill

    Sea urchins from Cadiz: no, you don’t eat the spines!
  • Gambas*: prawn
  • Galera: mantis shrimp
  • Langostino*: king prawn
  • Langosta*: lobster (see bogavante)
  • Lisa (or llisa): mullet
  • Mejillones: mussels (clochinas: Mediterranean mussels)
  • Navajas: razor clams
  • Ostras: oysters
  • Percebe: goose barnacle 
  • Pota: squid
  • Pulpo*: octopus (try pulpo a la gallega: sliced octopus on a bed of sliced potato, with a sprinkling of salt & paprika)
    Pulpo (octopus). Pulpo a la brasa (on the grill) is a real treat

    Pulpo a la Gallega: a classic tapa. Octopus spiced with pimentón and served on a bed of potato.
  • Quisquillas*: shrimps
  • Sepia*: cuttlefish
  • Sepionet: small cuttlefish
  • Vieira: scallops
Scallops (aka vieras) have an unbeatable subtle flavour


  • A la plancha/a la parilla/parillada: on the grill
  • A la brasa: on a charcoal or wood grill (usually meat)
  • A la romana: in a light beer batter (e.g. calamares a la romana)
  • A la andaluza: in a light batter (without the beer)
  • Rebosado: in batter (could be either romana or andaluza)
  • A la marinera:  cooked in white wine + onions (e.g. mejillones a la marinera)
  • Al vapor: steamed (e.g. berberechos al vapor)

The great seafood in this part of Spain helps make the Valencia/Alicante region the real home of paella. Find out more about rice dishes and paella  in my blog here

© Guy Pelham 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s