25/07/2021

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I Thought I Knew Tinned Fish. Then I Tried These Spanish Calamari

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It was the goth squid that got me hooked on Güeyu Mar—fork-tender tentacles bobbing in a jet-black sauce that tasted like the ocean mixed with campfire smoke. As a six-year Madrid transplant, I’d eaten calamares en su tinta (squid in ink sauce) in abuelas’ kitchens, neighborhood taverns, and starchy fine-dining restaurants, but it never tasted like this. How on earth could such a delicacy come from a can?

Güeyu Mar, which hit the U.S. market in December (full list of retailers here), is not like other conservas companies you may have heard about. While most traditional canneries steam their seafood before packing it in water or oil, Güeyu Mar goes primal, cooking its sardines, cockles, squid, what have you, over live oak-wood flame. This step imbues each morsel with an intoxicating smokiness that, to me, evokes sunny Mediterranean seafood shacks and pre-pandemic beach barbecues.

Once the seafood is cooked, it’s either drenched in thick green arbequina olive oil from Castillo de Canena and sealed, or destined for meal-in-a-can wonders like sardines in escabeche (garlicky vinaigrette) or that blissfully chthonic squid, which Güeyu Mar dubs calamares de otro planeta (“squid from another planet”). I always have a few Güeyu Mar cans in the cupboard for when hunger strikes—and motivation doesn’t. Lately I’ve been tipping whole tins of cockles into linguini for a quick, smoky vongole and bulking up my pan con tomate with sardine loins.

If these cans sound cheffier (and more expensive) than most, that’s because they are: Güeyu Mar is named for a well-known seafood restaurant in Playa de la Vega, Asturias. Its chef, Abel Álvarez, makes no compromises when it comes to quality of ingredients, and that approach applies to his tins as well.

Friends who have dined at Güeyu Mar tell me it’s a Spanish seafood eden—picture a converted stone house in the middle of nowhere with views out to the Cantabrian Sea. Traveling to Asturias may be off the table for the time being, but with a tin or two of Güeyu Mar conservas—and a bit of imagination—you’re basically halfway there.

Güeyu Mar Grilled Cockles

Want to shop in person? Find Güeyu Mar at brick-and-mortar shops across the country here.

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