How to order fish and seafood in Spain

We reckon the Spanish do fish and seafood better than anyone. Here in Villajoyosa (aka La Vila Joiosa), there is a bewildering variety on offer, much of it caught locally. So how do you know what you’re ordering? Many restaurants have menus in English, but the fishy translations below should help you find your way around any language difficulties.

If you fancy cooking fish yourself, most supermarkets in La Vila have a great selection of fresh fish and seafood on display, or try the stalls in the local market.

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FISH (pescados) * signifies fish landed in La Vila port

  • 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.
  • 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
  • Emperador*: swordfish
  • 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 La Vila 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*: snapper
  • Pescaditos fritos: assortment of small fried fish
  • Pez Espada*: swordfish
  • Rape* (pronounced ‘rap-eh’): monkfish  
  • Raya*: skate (ala de raya: skate wing)
  • Rodaballo*: turbot
  • Salmonetes*: red mullet  
  • Salmón: salmon
  • Sardinas*: sardines 
  • Trucha: trout

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

  • Almejas: clams
  • Berberechos: cockles
  • Bogavante: lobster (aka langosta). Langosta and bogavante are different types of lobster; when they’re alive langostas are a dark orange colour, while bogavantes look dark blue.  They both turn pinkish when cooked. Bogavante has large front claws, langosta has long antennae. 
  • Cangrejo*: crab
  • Calamar*: squid
  • Carabinero*: red prawn (beware – these are a lot pricier than normal prawns!)
  • Chipirones*: baby squid
  • Cigalas*: langoustine (sometimes called Norway Lobster or Dublin Bay prawn)
  • Clochinas or clochinas malla: Mediterranean mussels from Valencia and Sagunto
  • Gambas*: prawn
  • Galera: mantis shrimp
  • Langostino*: king prawn
  • Langosta*: lobster (see bogavante)
  • Mejillones: mussels (clochinas: Mediterranean mussels)
  • Navajas: razor clams
  • Ostras: oysters
  • Percebe: goose barnacle 
  • Pulpo*: octopus (try pulpo a la gallega: sliced octopus on a bed of sliced potato, with a sprinkling of salt & paprika)
  • Quisquillas*: shrimps
  • Sepia*: cuttlefish
  • Sepionet: small cuttlefish
  • Vieira: scallops


  • 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)

© Guy Pelham 2017

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