Tempted your Taste-buds with Tapas

Manchego cheese dripping in fresh olive oil. Russian salad mixed with sliced of pork roasted in the oven. Pan-fried juicy prawns smothered in oil and garlic. Is your mouth watering yet?

These are just some of the succulent bite-sized treats you can expect to find when you sit down to tapas in a traditional Spanish bodega. From very humble beginnings tapas have become a culinary art form in their own right and the hallmark of Spanish cuisine.

The word ‘tapa’ comes from the Spanish verb tapear, which means to cover. The word is inspired by the old Spanish tradition to cover a beer with a small plate of food. In the past, this tiny plate of food was free. When workers went in to a bar for a quick beer during or after the workday, they’d get some food to accompany their drink.

Only in remote Andalusian towns does the tradition of free tapas still continue. Everywhere else, you’ll have to pay. But they are not expensive and they are well worth the money. The average tapa will cost between €1.20 and €2.50. There are hot and cold tapas, simple and luscious tapas. They can be a quick snack during the day or even a full and hearty meal.

Go to any Spanish bodega and expect to be overwhelmed by the tapa options. Croquettas, bacalao, boquerones, calamares, patatas bravas and mejillones rellenos, these are just some of the tasty tapas you’ll find in most Spanish restaurants. But what do they mean?

Croquettas are a staple on most tapa menus. They are battered balls that can be stuffed with anything from potato and ham to spinach and fish. The most common type are the ham variety but it’s possible to find them stuffed with anything.

Bacalao is white cod and is amongst the most popular fish in Spain. Other popular fish includes hake, haddock, swordfish and tuna. Bacalao is cooked either in a stew or on its own, pan-fried with garlic.

Tuna is also really popular and one of the best ways to eat this is called Albondigas de Atún, which are tuna-meatballs.

Boquerones are sardines deep-fried and usually covered in bread-crumbs. They are really tasty and it’s possible to eat the whole thing. The Spanish will even eat the heads. Calamares are squid rings, also deep-fried and usually dipped in battered. You’ll know the squid is really fresh if it just melts in your mouth.

Typical tapa tasters include Manchego cheese and chorizo. The Manchego cheese is cut in triangular shapes and dripping in olive oil. This cheese is a cured cheese, has a smoky taste and a dry texture. The oil gives it a creamy quality.

There are dozens of types of chorizo or sausage. Some are cured in pepper, others dipped in tomato sauce. A good bodega will give you samples of sausage for free. No tapa meal is complete without tasting Spain’s favourite food, the Jamón Serrano. There are lots of different quality of this ham, but it’s best eaten in wafer thin slices with fresh bread.

The rule of thumb with tapas is very simple. Order as many different tapas as possible and fill your mouth with a party of flavours.

Chances are you’ll fill up quickly, and yet you’ll still find room for more!