The canchalagua, Floreana’s culinary staple

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What’s the most unexpected hamburger you’ve ever tasted? Think hard… it’s probably not that adventurous. Most hamburgers are your regular fare. Maybe the meat is prepared with mushrooms, spiced with chipotle or features a cheesy core. For some people, a veggie burger is the farthest you can go. But there’s a place in the Galapagos Islands that deserves to be known as home to the most bizarre hamburger in the world.

Made from a primitive mollusk (the type of creature you’d see inside an Evolutionary Science diorama) locally known as canchalagua, this hamburger is certainly an acquired taste. Canchalagua is actually the most important source of protein for the island where the hamburger is made. I’m speaking of Floreana island, in the southernmost tip of the Galapagos archipelago.

Floreana’s human community is among the most isolated (and smallest) in the world, numbering a mere 150 people. Sea-locked, with very few means of food accessibility —importing lettuce is as far-fetched as finding gold— this shellfish is common along Floreana’s shores, as it adheres to the bottom of volcanic rocks along the beach. Fishermen set out at midnight during full moons to harvest the species. And the entire culinary culture of the island has thus long been dominated by its flavor. Dishes ranging from canchalagua ceviche to canchalagua sautéed with garlic are your everyday fare. I guess if you’re from Floreana, concocting a canchalagua hamburger is only a step away.

The canchalagua hamburger, however, was first imagined by Aura Cruz, who came up with the recipe maybe a decade ago. Aura also makes a very popular canchalagua pizza, which she serves at her tiny dive on the main road of Puerto Velasco Ibarra, Floreana’s only minuscule village. If you ever make it this far, don’t hesitate to taste these homegrown delicacies… And do tell us what you think!

Photos: Jorge Vinueza

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