(Rough Guides) “Keep pulling,” shouts fisherman Sergio Carrera, to make himself heard above Patagonia’s ubiquitous wind. “There’s about 80 more metres of rope to go!”
On board a small inflatable craft in the middle of the Beagle Channel, I’m about to catch my first centolla (king crab or spider crab), an orange-hued decapod crustacean prized by chefs for its succulent and delicious white shoulder meat. This isn’t recreational fishing, however: this is the first step of a unique sea-to-table dining experience in the most southern point of Argentina. Despite the single-digit temperature and persistent wind, I’m perspiring as I do my bit, dragging up lunch from the bottom of these cold waters.
Classified as a necrophagous crustacean, king crabs are perfectly at home feasting on sea urchin remains found on the seabed of this legendary strait. These waters were navigated by the Yaghan indigenous people for ten millennia before reaching the mainstream courtesy of naturalist Charles Darwin. The usual way to devour king crab is by selecting one from a tank in a restaurant then letting a chef prepare it in the confines of their kitchen. Granted, it’s fresh, but it’s not the most romantic way of sourcing centolla. At Puerto Pirata, a tiny four-table wooden cabin of a diner nestled on the stony shores of Puerto Almanza, some 50 miles from Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel is the fish tank.
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