Going to a warm and exotic country can be a wonderful and rewarding experience.
You get to see stunning architecture, meet friendly locals and learn about a culture that is new and completely different to your own. But the best thing about traveling to different countries is the food.
Every country in the world has its own unique food culture, traditional dishes that can be both delicious and life-changing.
However, sometimes it can be difficult trying new and strange food, especially if you have no idea what’s in it, or what the food even is. For example, what is tapas and where does it come from?
Down below, we have detailed everything you need to know about this traditional Mediterranean dish. From its cultural beginnings to the ingredients within it – this article has all the information you will ever need concerning this historical and delicious food.
What Is Tapas Food?
When it comes to defining the word tapas, we are not referring to a single type of food, but instead, a traditional way in which food can be served.
The word “tapa” actually refers to small, snack-like portions of food that are traditionally served alongside wine and other types of alcoholic beverages.
When ordering tapas, you are expected to order several tapas dishes at the same time, so that you may sample various foods all at once. Although tapas refers to the serving style and not the food itself, this does not mean that there aren’t traditional tapas dishes.
Because of the vast and diverse nature of tapas, it can be difficult trying to define them as one single thing. After all, when you order tapas you don’t necessarily know what could arrive at your table, as no tapas bar is the same.
Tapas can be pretty much anything from freshly prepared seafood to a handful of stuffed olives. But we can assure you that every tapas dish you order will be delicious, authentic and complementary.
Although tapas encompasses a lot of different foods, some certain dishes have become synonymous with the traditional serving style.
These particular foods can be considered the most authentic tapas dishes in the world, and the ones you will probably encounter when venturing out to a tapas bar.
These dishes truly capture the essence of what tapas can be and remain a popular favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Traditional Tapas Dishes
Down below we have brought together a selection of traditional tapas dishes, the ones that will usually feature on any tapas menu. These dishes are delicious and eclectic and are a great way to get started on your tapas journey.
Chorizo Al Vino
Chorizo is always going to be a staple of tapas cuisine, and this particular dish takes the spicy sausage and soaks it in a wine before serving it up with some pieces of crusty bread. This dish is full of flavor and demonstrates just how diverse tapas can be.
Arguably the most popular tapas dish in the world – patatas bravas refers to chunks of fried potato that have been smothered in a rich and spicy tomato sauce. Always a crowd-pleaser, this savory and indulgent dish is the definition of tapas done right.
Calamares A La Romana or Rabas
Tapas would not be tapas without some well-prepared seafood on the table. And these traditional fried squid dishes are delicious, crispy and authentic. Just remember to always give them a good squeeze of lemon before tucking in.
Translating to “Moorish spikes” this dish refers to skewers of roasted meat that has been cooked and coated in a generous amount of herbs and spices. The traditional meat used is pork, but some tapas bars will also offer chicken and beef variations.
As we said, what is tapas without some fish? This dish contains anchovies that have been soaked in vinegar. Although this dish is not for everyone, some tapas bars also offer fresh anchovies as an alternative.
Pimientos Del Padrón
A tapas that is perfect for lovers of spice, this dish refers to tiny green peppers which are known to pack a powerful punch to the tastebuds.
Sometimes the peppers can range from mild to inferno, so make sure you know which one you are eating before you put it in your mouth!
What Country Do Tapas Come From?
Although you have probably guessed by now, tapas as a serving style first originated in Spain, where it remains a popular and delicious cuisine. However, the true beginnings of tapas are somewhat contradictory – as several stories purport to be the true origin of the tapas style.
One of the most popular stories is a Spanish legend that details the life of King Alfonso X. In the story, King Alfonso made it a requirement for tavern owners to serve food with their wine so that it would help sober up any rowdy and unruly guests.
Another popular story tells of a king who journeyed to the town of Ventorrillo del Chato, where he entered a tavern and ordered a glass of sherry.
Because of the windy weather conditions, the innkeeper served the drink with a piece of ham on top, to protect it from sand and dust.
However, the king greatly enjoyed the addition of the meat and ordered another “tapa” with his drink – tapa being a word that means lid or cover.
Although the origins of tapas vary from region to region, many share the recurring theme of Spanish men using bread or meat to cover their glasses of wine, to protect them from flies and insects.
Seeing as this is one of the most prominent reasons for the invention of tapas, it could arguably be the most historically factual.
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