Tapas has become one of Spain’s most ubiquitous exports. For those who are unfamiliar, tapas is a lovely (and often free) snack which accompanies wine or beer orders in a range of Spanish bars and restaurants.
Of course, owing to its popularity, tapas is now readily available in restaurants around the world, but if you’re lucky enough to be booking Spain holidays in 2014, authentic tapas from the source is an essential experience. Here are some tips on what you can expect from the culinary scene on your next Spanish trip.
In many Spanish taverns, tapas are provided to patrons as a show of gratitude for purchasing a drink at the bar. Some of the more common tapas dishes are small plates of anchoas en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar), mejillones (mussels), a range of cold meats and cheeses, tortilla (potato omelette), magro con tomate (pork with tomato) or pipirrana (tomato, pepper and onion salad).
Many taverns feature these dishes as tapas offerings because they are easily produced en masse and can be stored in the fridge all day. This means patrons rarely have to wait for a tapas snack to be prepared and can enjoy a range of flavours with their chosen beverage.
Tapas varieties also vary geographically. Inland Spain is home to longer and colder winters which have in turn inspired dishes like patatas bravas (potatoes with spicy tomato sauce), pimentos rellenos (stuffed peppers), calamares a la romana (battered squid rings) and croquetas (fried food rolls containing meats and cheeses). In southern regions of Spain visitors will find more varieties of cold tapas dishes such as ensaladilla rusa (Spanish potato salad) and of course as tourists move toward to the coastal areas, their tapas will include a range of fish-related ingredients.
Several restaurants in Spain now feature a proper menu of tapas items to be purchased individually. These dishes typically include one or two portions and are called pinchos. To experience the authentic (and free) tapas culture, visitors can veer slightly off the beaten track and into local Spanish taverns known as tascas. Tascas are popular in working class neighbourhoods in Madrid but the ultimate destination for free tapas is without a doubt Granada.
Touted as the Spanish capital of free tapas, Granada is a wonderful place to indulge in a local culinary adventure and there are a range of blogs that provide comprehensive reviews of the city’s abundant and competitive free tapas culture.
Wherever you find your taste of authentic Spain, remember that the joy of tapas is not having to choose between one dish or another, but having a little of what you fancy from each!