A tapa is an appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine and translates to a small portion of any kind of Spanish cuisine. Tapas may be served cold or hot. In some bars and restaurants in Spain and across the globe, tapas have evolved into a more sophisticated cuisine and quite often can be combined to make a full meal. In most cases Tapas are ordered and placed in the middle of the table for everybody to share.
The literal meaning for the word “tapa” is “cover or “coaster.” According to popular stories men frequented taverns where the most popular drink was red wine. Wine barrels and taverns were an attractive place for wine flies and other flying pests so the custom of covering a glass of wine with a tapa became a necessity to avoid flies drowning in the wine. At the same time the King of Spain, Alfonso X el Sabio, forbade all taverns under his kingdom to serve wine or alcohol if not accompanied by a small amount of food in order to prevent drunkenness and misconduct. The mandatory portion of food served was placed over the coaster, named tapa, and the food snack itself became known as tapa.
SPANISH OMELETTE - TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA
This is often ordered as a pincho de tortilla, or a piece of tortilla. The most traditional ones are made with eggs, potatoes and olive oil, but many also contain onion.
PATATAS BRAVAS AND PATATAS ALIOLI
These are fried potatoes covered in a tasty sauce. Bravas sauce is spicy and alioli is made mainly from olive oil and garlic.
CURED HAM - JAMÓN CURADO
This is one of the Spanish products most-liked by visitors as a tapa and is usually served with bread or picos and colines (small dish of crunchy bread typical in Spain).
CHEESE - QUESO
In Spain there are many varieties and you will most typically be offered a local cheese. Some of the most well-known are Manchego (typical of Castilla – La Mancha), Idiazábal (Basque Country), Roncal (Navarre), Mahón (Balearic Isalnds) and Majorero (Canary Islands).
OLIVES - ACEITUNAS
Olives are usually served pickled. In fact, pickled items in general are commonly found in tapas. There are also stuffed olives (normally with anchovies or peppers).
BATTERED SQUID - CALAMARI
Battered squid fried in olive oil and served hot. They are popular all over the country, especially cut into rings.
CROQUETTES - CROQUETAS
Although ham croquettes are the most traditional type of croquette, you can also increasingly find them made with wild mushrooms, king crab, squid, prawns, cod or different types of strong cheeses, like Cabrales.
MUSSELS - MEJILLONES
These are mainly steamed and can be served with lemon or with finely-chopped and dressed tomato, onion and pepper.
BLACK PUDDING AND CHORIZO - PUDIN NEGRO Y CHORIZO
Together with ham, these are two of the most popular cured pork products served as tapas.
BROKEN EGGS - HUEVOS ROTOS
Also known as huevos estrellados, these are fried eggs with a runny yolk served over a bed of ham and fried potatoes. The yolk is broken up and runs over the other ingredients. It is usually served with bread to dip into the egg yolk. There are other popular versions which substitute the ham for baby eels, prawns or other cured pork products.
RUSSIAN SALAD - ENSALADILLA RUSA
This is a cold dish prepared with boiled potatoes, mayonnaise, tuna, egg and various finely-chopped vegetables and pulses, such as carrots, peas or green beans.
PULPO - OCTOPUS
Octopus is often served on a wooden board. It can be known as pulpo a la gallega. It is served boiled and chopped, seasoned with salt and paprika and drizzled with olive oil.
ANCHOVIES – BOQUERONES
Fresh anchovy fillets, which initially have a brown colored meat, are cleaned, de-scaled, and submerged in a bath of salt and water for 3 hours and vinegar for 6 hours in a cool place. The fillets slowly turn white as the vinegar reacts with the fish. Once having gone through this process, and the liquid has been drained, they are seasoned with minced garlic, olive oil and parsley.
GARLIC SHRIMP – GAMBAS AJILLO
This simple lemon-garlic shrimp will satisfy with either toothpicks for spearing or crusty baguette slices for dipping.
BLISTERED PADRON PEPPERS – PIMIENTOS DE PADRON AMPOLLADOS
Padron peppers are cooked in olive oil, salt, lemon juice, cooked until blistered before serving.
SPANISH STYLE MEATBALLS - ALBÓNDIGAS
These Meatballs are made with spicy chorizo.
PAN FRIED CAULIFLOWER - COLIFLOR FRITA
These days you can eat quick-fried cauliflower which is a healthier alternative to fried cheese or meat.
CHICKEN WINGS - ALITAS DE POLLO
Chicken wings are a very popular tapa.