Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Spanish Tapas: a whole world

Nowadays the Spanish term tapa is known around the World. We usually eat tapas at trendy Spanish restaurants, which are springing in many countries as UK or USA. Spanish food is in vogue, because of its simplicity, its healthy ingredients, and above all, its flavours: distinctive and strong, but pleasant and delicious.

But we know what really the tapas are? How are the real tapas in Spain? How many types of tapas can we find? Or how the Spanish eat them?

We can define Tapas are titbits eaten with drinks at a bar. Normally eaten before a full meal, but not exclusively, as the custom is to eat them between meals, mid-afternoon, mid-morning, or to brighten up any time at the bar. Or you can simply make a complete meal with them.

The name tapa (cover) is very old, and refers to the slice of bread with jamon that was put on the jars of wine, in the medieval inns, to not enter flies or dust.

What means Tapeo? Tapeo is the Spanish tradition of going out, normally before lunch or dinner, to join friends to drink beer, wine, or a soft drink, while eating some snacks (tapas), to stave off hunger. In many parts of Spain is a tradition going from bar to bar and eat a tapa on each. This is called Ir de tapas. So tapas mix the concept of eating with socializing.

Eating and drinking are complementary: drink stimulates the appetite and aids digestion of some ingredients (such as pepper), and in turn, food helps to lower effects of alcohol.

The tapas are cooked in all bars in Spain, so many of them are warm. Each offers different tapas, but some are common and famous throughout the country. That is the case of Tortilla Española (Spanish potato and onion omelette), Patatas bravas (spiced potatoes), Boquerones (anchovies with garlic and olive oil), the fresh Russian salad (potato with vegetables and mayonnaise salad), or Croquetas (croquettes; made of chicken, jamon or cod)

But we can find specialties by region. For example:

-          Galicia, in the northwestern coast, is famous for its seafood tapas, as this area is Europe's largest producer of shellfish. We can try the octopus, prepared in the Galician way. Or the Empanadillas Gallegas (Galician patty with seafood).


-          In Andalusia is so typical to order Boquerones en vinagre (anchovies on vinegar with garlic and olive oil), or even Boquerones fritos (fried anchovies), but the star dish is definitely a plate of Jamon Iberico


-          In Castilla (Castile) there is a strong tradition for tapas of pork. Therefore, we can eat Chorizo (classic Spanish red sausage) or Morcilla (blood sausage). The most famous is the one made in Burgos, with rice.


-          Madrid is specially known for tapas, and you can find bars everywhere. Is very common to order Patatas bravas (medium size chunks of fried potatoes in a hot spicy sauce made with chilli), and of course Callos a la madrileña (tripe casserole).


-          In Catalonia the Pa amb tomaca (a slice of bread with tomato and garlic sauce), or Escalibada (peppers, aubergines and onions, baked in the oven).
-          Bilbao is famous for its tapas of Bacalao a la bilbaina (fresh cod cooked in the Bilbao way), or Gambas al ajillo (fried prawns out of its shell with garlic and chilli pepper). Everything is always accompanied by local wine, the txakoli.
-          And Valencia, capital of the Mediterranean Diet, you can order any salad with olive oil (very healthy), Clochinas al vapor (steamed clams), or Esgarraet (roasted pepper, cod "esgarrat", garlic and oil; simple but delicious).


There are different ways to serve or present a tapa: 

-          A simple normal dish or plate (Jamon, cheese).
-          Small clay casserole or plate (fried Chorizo, Gambas al ajillo).
-          Montaditos: a slice of bread with toppings (Loin with fried onions, Morcilla de Burgos).
-          Pincho: this term is sometimes confusing (depends on the part of Spain), because it can be a small plate (Ensaladilla rusa, Tortilla Española), or in the north it refers to a tapa which all ingredientes are fastened with a toothpick (as Champiñones; mushrooms).


-          Banderilla: olives, pieces of peppers, chives and a gherkin all fastened by a medium size stick.
-          Pincho moruno: skewers made with spiced chunks of chicken, pork or beef.


The size of a tapa can vary depending on the ingredients, time of day, the area of Spain. The same goes for the price, as some include drinks. Tapas can be found in all cities and bars in Spain, always presented at the fornt desk or bar, to see what they offer.

We recommend that in your next visit to Spain do not fail to try and test tapas the more the better. You will find an unlimited source of ideas, ingredients and flavours, as well as friends.

Bon appetit!, or in the Spanish way, Buen provecho!

No comments:

Post a Comment