The culture of eating tapas in Spain is very rich and there are many things that you should know before picking the right tapas bar. Read our guide to tapas dining and find out everything about this essential part of Spanish cuisine.
WHAT ARE TAPAS?
Tapas are small savory dishes, which are served as a snack, usually consumed with a glass of wine, cava champagne or Spanish sangria. They are served to be shared and they can vary widely.
Pinchos: They came from the Basque region and the easiest way to describe them is to say that they are mouth-sized tapas, always served on top of a small slice of bread.
Raciones: When you see two separate prices for one dish – one will be for tapas and one for raciones. This is because raciones are bigger portions of regular tapas.
Platos Combinados: If you want to have a complete meal, you can order several plates of tapas or Platos Combinados. It means the entire meal on a plate but it is usually a large plate of a variety of the tapas.
WHAT TO TRY?
There are so many different tapas and every tapas bar and restaurant will probably have their own tapas offer. However, we managed to make a small list of the most traditional tapas combinations that we recommend you to try:
Gambas al Ajillo: fresh prawns in sizzling olive oil with garlic and chili peppers
Bacalao: salt cod, breaded and fried or stewed in tomato sauce
Calamares: fried squid rings
Chipirones: small squid, usually cooked "a la plancha" (on the griddle)
Chocos: cuttlefish, usually breaded and deep fried
Espinacas con garbanzos: spinach and chickpeas with olive oil and garlic
Patatas bravas: fried potato wedges served with a spicy aioli sauce
Ensaladilla: potato salad with mayonnaise and either tuna or prawns
Calamares del Campo: breaded and fried onions and peppers
Gazpacho: cold tomato soup with cucumber and garlic
Tortilla: potato omelet
Montaditos: small filled buns, often served toasted
Arroz del Día: rice of the day, with meat and/or seafood, served at lunchtime
Jamón Iberico: thinly sliced salt-cured ham of free-range Pata Negra pigs
Solomillo al Whisky: pork tenderloin in whiskey and garlic sauce
Albóndigas: meatballs that are most often with pork, but can also be made of beef or seafood
The origin of Tapas is not very clear since there are two theories. One of them being, that King Alfonso X (the Wise One) fell dangerously sick, and could only consume his meals in small portions with a bit of wine, to maintain his strength. After recovery, he ordered that wine had to be served with a snack and as a counteraction, preventing taverners to get too drunk and rowdy in a tavern.
TAPAS BARS AND RESTAURANTS
If you hear the word "taper" that means going from one tapas bar to another while drinking and trying new tastes of tapas. In most restaurants tapas costs between €2 to €7, depending on if you choose vegetables, meat, or fish, but in the most traditional Spanish tapas bars, it is included in the price of your drink.