What Are Tapas?
People always talk about Paellas and Tapas whenever they think about Spanish cuisine. While almost everyone knows what Paella is, there are some people who are not familiar with Tapas. This is despite the fact that they may already have been served these food items at some point in their lives. So, what are Tapas?
An Overview of Tapas
Tapas are an important part of Spanish cuisine. These are often served as snacks or appetizers, although there are those who say that this is not a very accurate description.
For example, you eat appetizers before you start with the main meal. However, Spanish tapas can be great meals in themselves. You can always start your meal with these food items. Because they are so good, you will not be able to stop until you already feel full. You will no longer have “space” left in your tummy to fill with the main course.
In a way, Tapas is not a type of food. It is more a style of serving food in smaller portions. Tapas makers can use almost any kind of food. It can be croquettes, paella, toast with ham and cheese, and many more. There is only one rule to follow. Tapas should be small and should accompany your favorite drink.
Origins of Tapas
One of the questions that bug people is “what does tapas mean?” The word “tapa” comes from “tapar”. This is the Spanish equivalent of “to cover”. There are several theories as to how the term became synonymous with a style of serving food.
There is a legend in Spain when King Alfonso X fell ill. He became so sick that he could not eat that well. The king can only manage to eat small portions of food together with wine. Upon his recovery, King Alfonso X ordered taverns to serve their customers wine with a small snack.
Another theory has something to do with how Spaniards serve Sherry to their guests. They always covered glass of this fruity and sweet Spanish wine with a slice of meat or bread. This prevents fruit flies from getting into the drink.
There is also the story of King Felipe II. The king passed a law that will help curb drunkenness in sailors and soldiers. The law requires bartenders to cover a goblet or mug with a lid that contains a small amount of food. King Felipe II believed that food should help slow down the different effects of alcoholic beverages.
Another story is that of King Alfonso XIII. He ordered wine from a popular tavern in Cadiz. Being near the sea, the waiter covered the king’s wine with a piece of cured ham to protect it from beach sand. King Alfonso XIII ordered another cup of wine complete with “the cover” of cured ham.
Types of Tapas
There are many different kinds of tapas. However, one can categorize them into six general types of tapas. They are the following.
This type of tapas is very quick to prepare. Examples are olives, anchovies in vinegar, chorizo, gazpacho, jamon, pulpo a la gallega, and pimientos rellenos, among others. This does not mean that the ingredients are no longer cooked. Some will still require cooking. The only difference is that they get prepared much later for a quick snack.
These tapas require cooking, often in boiling water. People serve them hot in either vegetable oil or olive oil. Examples of these Spanish tapas include albondigas, bacalao, callos a la madrillena, calamares, and champiniones, among others.
As the name implies, these tapas consist mainly of meat ingredients. They can include meatballs, tripe, stewed pork cheeks, fried pork rind, and blood sausage as well as many others.
Fans of seafood can always rely on seafood tapas to whet their appetites or to fill their tummies. These can include cod, cockles, anchovies, small clams, shrimp, and many more.
These tapas should never include meat in their preparation. However, it is not always the case as you can still see slices of jamon or a few bits of scampis on your veggie tapas. Examples of these types of tapas are berenjas con miel, espinacas con garbanzos, gazpacho, and pintxo. Some restaurants may also serve you queso and revuelto. These are cheese and scrambled eggs, respectively. As such, it may defeat the idea of a veggie tapas.
While these tapas are free of gluten, they are often served with a slice or two of bread. If you have a gluten allergy, it is often wise to ask your waiter if they have gluten-free tapas on their menu. Examples of these are champiniones, patatas bravas, morcilla, and ensaladilla rusa.
If you look at these types of tapas, it is easy to see what are tapas made of. They can be made of almost anything that the chef has in his or her kitchen. It can be meat, poultry, veggies, seafood, dairy, and other food items.
The reason for this variety has something to do with the diverse landscape and climate of Spain. There are dusty plains and mountain ranges. There are also regions that are wet and cold and places where it is dry and hot. It is also bordered by two great bodies of water – the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. As such, different regions in Spain will have different tapas to reflect the kind of ingredients that are available to them.
The cold northern part of Spain is famous for its dairy, sheep, and beef products. They also get bounty from the Atlantic. You can expect their tapas to be filling, hearty, and warming. Down south is the region of olives. Expect fish and other seafood from the Mediterranean to be the main attractions in this region.
Eastern Spain has groves of almonds and oranges as well as aromatic herbs. In the western section of Spain, there are pork and lamb that make for perfect and hearty stews. Cheese is also very famous in this part of Spain.
Tapas are very versatile food items. They can be wonderful snacks, appetizers, or a complete meal in themselves.