If you’ve ever traveled to Spain or know someone who has, chances are you have heard about tapas. Tapas is a ritual, and in essence a way of life in Spain. If you find yourself in Spain, going out for tapas should be at the top of your to-do list if you want to fully immerse yourself into Spain’s culture and social life.
What are tapas?
Tapas are a variety of small plates of food that are ordered with a drink, typically at the bar. It is not unusual to go bar to bar for tapas, also called “to tapear.” Tapas doesn’t just refer to ordering small plates of food. It is a social act. Tapas are meant to be shared with good company over drinks and conversations. It forms the basis for an informal gathering, and you will typically find that tapas bars are noisy and crowded, full of friends and colleagues standing around the bar or huddled around small tables.
How did tapas get started?
There are many theories used to explain the history of tapas. Some say it started after 13th century King Alfonso fell ill and had to eat small meals with wine to regain his strength. Others say it was to keep people from getting too intoxicated. Another more likely theory was that wine was served with a piece of bread or ham to place on top of your glass to keep flies and debris out. Tapa literally translates to “a lid.” Whichever theory you follow, going out for tapas is a unique and exciting experience to partake in Spain’s culture.
What are the best tapas to order?
Tapas can be found throughout the whole country, although it is presumed to have originated in Granada and Andalucia. Different regions in Spain are known for different specialties. Most restaurants serve tapas with a Mediterranean flavor. Fish, seafood, garlic, and pork are common staples found on most menus. Here’s a look at common tapas to try in Spain.
Jamón Iberico: One of the most popular. The thinly sliced cured ham is a must try.
Gazpacho: Most easily described as a cold tomato soup
Gambas al Ajillo: Prawns fried in garlic
Ensaladilla: A potato salad that usually includes tuna, prawns, or other seafood
Albóndigas: Meatballs, usually pork based
Tortilla: A potato omelet with onions
Cazón: Fried dogfish