When you think of Spain, there are several images that most likely come to mind. You probably picture the bright colors of flamenco dresses, beautiful architecture lining the narrow streets, warm beaches… and of course, tapas.
Here in Spain, everything is a social activity, including the way the Spanish people eat. Tapas are small portions of Spanish dishes, meant to be shared family-style among a group of people. They feature lots (and lots) of potatoes, different meats, and well-seasoned, but rarely spicy, combinations of Spanish flavors.
While they can be eaten at any time of day, they are most often enjoyed in the evening, as most Spanish people eat their biggest meal for lunch, and a smaller amount for dinner. In order to help you look and feel like a local by ordering the best foods, let’s talk tapas.
Tortilla de Patatas
Often written on English menus as a “Spanish omelette,” this dish is always made using potatoes and eggs, but commonly features added ingredients such as onions, spinach, and more. A tapa of tortilla will be served in a slice and is a great compliment for other, more flavorful tapas, such as the next dish.
Most people have heard of gazpacho, the cold, Spanish tomato based soup, but fewer have heard of the thicker version, salmorejo. This soup is made with tomatoes, olive oil, and some garlic, all blended together with bread for thickening. It is often topped with pork and hard boiled eggs, but can be served without.
Berenjena con miel
Think you aren’t a vegetable person? Think again! Literally translated, this dish means eggplant with honey. Strips or chunks of eggplant are lightly battered and fried, and then drizzled in sweet honey, making this dish taste more like a sweet dessert, rather than a bland vegetable. Approved by picky eaters!
Solomillo al Whiskey
Don’t worry, this dish is non-alcoholic; however, the flavor is certainly intoxicating! This dish features pork tenderloin cooked in a whiskey sauce alongside big garlic chunks, usually served over potatoes. It is a favorite meat dish of many Spanish locals.
While its log-shaped appearance might not be the most appetizing, this roll of fried meat, battered and fried is one of the most delicious tapas available. It can be made with different types of meat, but is most commonly found with Spanish “jamon serrano” wrapped in pork tenderloin. Paired with mayonnaise and chips, this tapa is definitely a guilty-pleasure treat.
This one may seem strangely simple, but you can’t pass it up. (And no, it’s not the queso you think of from Tex-Mex restaurants.) Order a plate of queso anywhere, and you’ll be brought a plate of cheese slices that won’t last long on the table. It’s usually a slightly harder cheese with a strong flavor, made even better when drizzled in olive oil!
These bite sized, fried tapas are an absolute classic found in almost all tapas bars, as well as in the kitchens of every Spanish mother and grandmother. Croquetas are fried pieces filled with a smooth bechamel, perfectly paired with the crunch from the fried exterior. This difficult dish can be made in several forms, such as with cod, ham, chicken, and even spinach.
Ordering tapas in Spain is a great way to sample as much of the local food as possible without eating far too much. Don’t make the mistake of ordering just one large plate for yourself, but instead, sit down with your friends and family, decide on a few to try, and then share with the group, just as the Spanish do. There are few experiences more cultural than sitting around a table filled with different dishes and flavors from all over Spain.
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