Food & Drink

Beginners guide to tapas, part 1

We are going to assume you have heard the word tapas; you have some abstract idea of what it may be. However, you are still a bit scared to enter to a Spanish bar and shout to the owner ponme unas tapas! (Bring me some tapas!). What if I don’t like it? How big are the portions? What on earth is a boquerón?

Here at Taste of Sundays we want to make it easier for you. You just have to read our explanations very carefully; the next time you travel to Spain you will definitely master the art of tapeo (going for tapas), we promise.

So, what is a tapa?

If you ask us, the tapas are the best invention since bread.
In a country when dinner can happen rather late (by European standards), say 9 or 10 pm, tapas have historically kept the Spanish people from starving. We just made that up, but you get the point.

Technically, tapas are tiny plates of food served to accompany drinks. It does not even really matter what ingredients you have in the actual tapa, as long as it comes on a small plate (and you eat it in a bar).

Example of a Pintxo

If a toothpick is used to keep everything in place, then we call them banderillas or pintxos. Pintxos are the typical tapas from the Basque Country, unlike banderillas, the base of the pintxos is usually a slice of bread upon which almost any ingredient can be placed.

Ok, but I still don’t know what to order

Every bar and every region has its own set of specialities; THE tapa does not really exist. Tapas can vary from toasted almonds to a mini meal itself, such as callos (pork tripe stew); the possibilities are endless.

It will take forever to make a full list of all the tapas (and we are getting hungry), so lets just mention our favourite ones, which are kind of universal and can be found in almost every tapas bar around Spain.

  • Aceitunas or olivas: olives
  • Patatas bravas: fried potatoes with spicy sauce
  • Queso manchego: cured Spanish cheese
  • Chorizo a la sidra: chorizo sausage cooked in cider
  • Pulpo a la gallega: boiled octopus seasoned with olive oil paprika powder
  • Pimientos de Padrón: small green pepers fried in olive oil
  • Calamares a la romana: rings of battered and fried squid
  • Boquerones: fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar and seasoned with garlic and parsley
  • Gambas al ajillo: fried prawns with garlic
  • Salpicón de marisco /pulpo en vinagre: octopus maritaned in vinegar with chopped paprika, tomato and onions.
  • Conejo en salmorejo: rabbit stew

What about drinks?

The best drinks to accompany tapas are wine, dry cherry or beer.
If you want something less strong try a sandy or clara (beer with lemonade) or a tinto de verano (cold red wine with soda).  And if you are not into alcohol at all, you can order a cerveza sin alcohol (alcohol free beer) or mosto (grape juice).

Now, if you think you can handle all the basics - then you are ready to move on to our Beginners guide to Tapas, part 2!

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