Food & tapas in Spain
Tapas and food in Spain
There is much more to Spanish food than Tapas, though it is true that Tapas is a very Spanish thing, and that they go very well with wine.
What are tapas?
They could be considered as appetizers, though if eaten one after another they may well make a dinner. They are very varied and range from a small cheese portion or olives to a piece of fried fish, omelettes, chorizos, etc.
"Ir de tapas"
This is the Spanish expression for dining eating tapas. Dining like this is equally about being social as it is about food. Locals do not stay at one place, but shift bars and enjoy the speciality at each place. You should expect quite a noisy atmosphere at Tapas bars and we recommend that you get ready for it before you go for this experience.
Another tip is about time: Spaniards are used to late dinners and restaurants do not usually start serving till as late as 9 p.m. Tapas can be enjoyed earlier since bars are open all day long and most tapas are ready to serve and do not require major preparation. We would like to stress again that "Tapas" is not a particular type of food but small portions of many different things served cold or hot. Years ago Tapas used to be given for free at most places. This is still the case sometimes, mainly in the South, where a Tapa is given for free to accompany a drink. However, you should expect to pay in most places, mainly if the tapa is of certain size.
Tapas is very much a portrait of the Spanish way of life: friendly dinners, where socializing and talking is very important, and with rarely pretentious food. Spain is however well-known also for renowned restaurants, and the last ten years have witnessed an important development in this area, with many Spanish chefs gaining world class recognition and awards.
Typical Spanish food dishes
Gazpacho. It is a chilled tomato soup, excellent for hot summer days and very healthy. Gazpacho is made out of tomato, olive oil, garlic and sometimes bread. It is very typical of Southern Spain.
Paella. This world-known recipe can today be found anywhere in Spain, but the “real thing’ originated in Valencia. It consists of a mix of rice, fish and shellfish, though it can also be made with meat, or chicken, or only with vegetables: there are in fact many versions of Paella and probably the best place to enjoy it continues being the seaside in Valencia… facing the sea with a glass of rosé. You get it.
Pisto Manchego. Original from La Mancha, this is a vegetable dish, where all ingredients are slowly cooked together. It can be very tasty, and is normally served with a fried egg on top.
Tortilla (Spanish omelette). The most typical one is made with onions and potatoes. The secret of this tortilla lies in the olive oil used for frying it and in the quality of the potatoes. When a tortilla is good you will understand that the result is much more than what the ingredients suggest.
Fabada Asturiana. This could well be described as the Spanish version of the French Cassoulet. Fabada is tyical from Asturias, and its secret lies in using the best quality ingredients included (beans, chorizo, morcilla, etc) Normally it is enough by itself for a full meal.
Bacalao con tomate (cod in tomato sauce). Spaniards mainly use salted cod. To prepare this recipe, the cod is soaked in water to get rid of the excess of salt. It is then fried with tomato sauce and roasted red peppers. This recipe is typical from the Northern regions in Spain.
We recommend you always try and taste wine with your food in Spain. Spanish recipes usually rely on the quality of the ingredients to get the best result, and are not as elaborated as French cuisine in general. There is for sure a perfect wine to match all Spanish dishes. It is normally correct to say that the local wine of the region pairs in the right way with the local food, but do not limit yourself to that: the wine diversity in Spain has expanded so much (even for whites) that you will have chances to taste and enjoy many different things. If you plan a holiday in Spain, a short-break in Barcelona or a getaway in Madrid, we strongly suggest you visit markets, and get well informed about local food to make the most out of your trip.