Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives, manchego cheese or russian salad) or warm (such as chorizo sausage, meatballs or small portions of pork or chicken).
The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”.
According to legend, the tapas tradition began when King Alfonso X of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or “tapa”.
The original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which drinkers used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure to prevent flies or insects and also any dust and dirt from getting into the drink. The meat used was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and make the drinkers more thirsty. Developing from this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with their drinks.
Tapas have evolved through Spanish history by incorporating ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. Most of the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Romans, who introduced olives and irrigation methods. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices and the influence of their 700-year presence remains today. The discovery of the New World brought the introduction of tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers, maize (corn) and potatoes.
Here are some of the common tapas you will find all over Spain
|Aceitunas||olives||sometimes with a filling of anchovies or red bell pepper|
|Albóndigas||meatballs with sauce|
|Allioli||“garlic and oil” in Catalan||the classic ingredients are only garlic, oil and salt, but the most common form of it includes mayonnaise and garlic, served on bread or with boiled or grilled potatoes, fish, meat or vegetables.|
|Bacalao||salted cod loin||sliced very thinly, usually served with bread and tomatoes|
|Banderillas, or pinchos de encurtidos||cold tapas made from small food items pickled in vinegar and skewered together. They are also known as gildas or piparras and consist of pickled items, like olives, baby onions, baby cucumbers, chiles (guindilla) with pieces of pepper and other vegetables. Sometimes they include an anchovy|
|Boquerones||white anchovies served in vinegar (boquerones en vinagre) or deep fried|
|Calamares or rabas||rings of battered squid|
|Chopitos||battered and fried tiny squid, also known as puntillitas|
|Chorizo al vino||chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine|
|Chorizo a la sidra||chorizo sausage slowly cooked in cider|
|Croquetas||a common sight in bar counters and homes across Spain, served as a tapa, a light lunch, or a dinner along with a salad|
|Empanadillas||large or small turnovers filled with meats and vegetables|
|Ensaladilla rusa||Russian salad||made with mixed boiled vegetables with tuna, olives and mayonnaise|
|Gambas||prawns sauteed in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or pil-pil (with chopped chili peppers|
|Mejillones rellenos||stuffed mussels, sometimes called tigres (“tigers”) because of the spicy taste|
|Patatas bravas||fried potato dices (sometimes parboiled and then fried, or simply boiled) served with salsa brava a spicy tomato sauce, sometimes served also with mayo or aioli|
|Pimientos de Padrón||small green peppers originally from Padrón (a municipality in the province of A Coruña, Galicia) that are fried in olive oil or served raw, most are mild, but a few in each batch are quite spicy|
|Pulpo a la gallega||Galician-style octopus||cooked in boiling water (preferably in a copper cauldron or pan) and served hot in olive or vegetable oil. The octopus pieces are seasoned with substantial amounts of paprika, giving it its recognisable red color, and sea salt for texture and flavour|
|Pincho moruno||Moorish spike||a stick with spicy meat, made of pork, lamb or chicken|
|Queso con anchoas||Castilla or Manchego cured cheese with anchovies on top|
|Rajo||pork seasoned with garlic and parsley, with added paprika, called zorza|
|Setas al Ajillo||fresh mushrooms sauteed with olive oil and garlic|
|Tortilla de patatas||Spanish omelette or tortilla española||a type of omelet containing fried chunks of potatoes and sometimes onion|