Get ready for a full immersion in a tasty tradition of Spanish gastronomy.
Imagine you are in Spain, more specifically in the beautiful Granada. Imagine meeting some friends in a bar to catch up on your trip, and have a delicious refreshing drink. A few minutes later, the waiter arrives and brings you not only your drink, but also a surprise, a gift from the house. A really inviting scent emanates from the plate, and visually it looks like a really appetizing dish as well. Guess what we’re talking about? That’s right! It’s them, the legendary unique and inimitable Spanish tapas.
Tapas and Spain go together like salt and pepper, that’s for sure. Browse through any guidebook about Spain, and you’ll probably see this delicious dish mentioned in the “must-try” section for no reason in the world.
The reason is simple, tapas are not only delicious, they are also the emblem of a broader, cultural concept: it transcends the boundaries of taste, and is almost a modus vivendi, a philosophy of life. Many other cultures, beyond Spain, have in fact chosen to affectionately call their dishes “tapas”, whether they are samples, or small multi-flavored portions.
Are you hungry to know the gastronomic tradition of Spanish tapas? Here you are served some tasty information about this finger food.
The origins of tapas
Many people know from hearsay that tapas are small dishes to be eaten next to a good cocktail, and that’s it. In fact, in Spain tapas have traditionally been the gateway to mouth-watering culinary experiences. Although they are generally served with alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine, tapas are so versatile that they are good together with any beverage, even non-alcoholic ones.
As mentioned above, in fact, tapas are extremely versatile: think they have different toppings according to the region and even to the place where you are!
Moreover, many people confuse tapas with common appetizers. What a nonsense! Nothing could be more wrong, really: tapas are almost always considered a single dish, or they are served with the so called “raciones”, bigger dishes in family size.
Not even the fact that most of the time this dish is free should mislead you: in selected restaurants you can even find “tapas-Michelin”, i.e. awarded with Michelin stars, meaning that this is a high-level cuisine.
Tapas or Pintxos?
Tapas can be found all over Spain, but is most popular in southern Andalusia: in particular, Granada, Jaén and Almería are cities known for serving free tapas if you order a drink.
In the north of Spain, on the other hand, and therefore in Asturias, Cantabria and Navarra, you will more often see pintxos (or pinchos) mentioned on menus, instead of tapas.
Although the concept behind the two preparations is almost identical, it must be said that pintxos are usually served on typical sticks, and are much more elaborate than tapas. That is why bars usually charge diners according to the number of sticks they have left on the table.
In all regions, however, tapas is a pretext for meeting and conviviality, they are social aggregators designed to give people precious moments, to laugh with pleasure between one bite and another of this delicious food.
Ordering tapas is as simple as ordering a drink. Many bars, particularly in the south of Spain, offer free tapas when you have an aperitif or order a drink. And although this is a generous gesture, and certainly appreciated, at the same time in these cases, you may not have a way to choose your tapas. For this reason we always suggest you to ask the waiter to bring you what you want.
Some bars have a menu with the specials of the day, or a blackboard with the different options to choose from. When you order your drink, you can then indicate what you would like, but if you forget you might get a surprise flavor.
Of course, if you don’t want to drink but still want to delight in tapas, you can ask to order an “extra tapas”, à la carte.
Our tapas suggestion to lick your fingers
What are the main typical tapas you find in Spain? Here are some of the most popular ones.
Jamón: or sausages. Whether it’s the world-famous mountain ham, i.e. the standard serrano, or the ultra-luxurious jamón ibérico de bellota, you’ll probably want to try this type of tapas.
Boquerones: we’re talking about anchovies served fried or pickled, with olive oil and garlic.
Patatas bravas: these are tapas with fried potatoes in a spicy sauce, a workhorse of cities like Madrid and Seville.
Croquetas: these bechamel logs fried in breadcrumbs melt in your mouth, and are a popular treat when it comes to tapas.
Albóndigas: these are tasty meatballs dipped in typical savory sauces, undoubtedly great when spread on crusty tapas bread.
Gambas al ajillo: this tasty yet simple tapa is made with fresh shrimp sautéed in garlic and olive oil.
Tortilla de patatas: Spanish potato omelette extremely popular in Spain and perfect as an accompaniment to tapas.
Aceitunas: these are stuffed olives, usually with anchovies or red peppers.
What do you say, are you ready to try them all?
Our Travel Experts are always on hand to help you plan your ideal Spanish road trip adventure.
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