Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pacos Food Corner - Tapas

I have been asked a lot to write something about Food here..

What is tradition, what is common and what is Andalucian Cuisine about.

Well, first of all. Spaniards love to eat. Always and a lot.
The world of eating is very colorful here. 
Spanish Cuisine is something that cannot be explained in just few sentences. 
It will probably take years and years from a foreign person to get the whole picture... 

Cooking traditions also vary a lot depending where you are in Spain. The climate, history, geography - it all plays a big part on the ingredients that are being used in particular areas and  parts of Spain. There are thousands of recipes and different flavors available. Also, one same dish can be cooked differently in different regions. 

I am only starting my journey to Spanish Cuisine and learning everyday new things.. And  I am definitely no expert and these are just my insights.

So I will start with Tapas-culture. Tapas is from Andalucia. 
In some ways you can say, Andalucia Is Tapas, as much as is Flamenco and Bullfighting.

Tapas Bars are in every corner and if the bar is not a Tapas Bar- they usually serve Tapas anyway!

Tapas Bar in Fuengirola

Tapas Bar in Old Town Marbella

More Tapas in Fuengirola

Tapas Bar in Estepona

Tapas Bar in San Pedro

Tapas is a name  that is used to a huge variety of different appertizers. 
So basically, it is a " snack" - but for me, it can be lunch dinner and snack- I like them so much! Normally, people gathers at Tapas bars after work to see friends before they go to proper dinner.

The history of Tapas dates back to 16th Century, making it a really old tradition.  I have read from somewhere that there was a King who was ill and recovered by eating small snacks "tapas" and then made it a law that every tavern must serve small snacks to keep people healthy. 

I have also read from somewhere that, since Spaniards love to drink wine so much, and it was not very productive to drink wine to empty stomach. King made it a law to serve snacks so that people could go back to work on fields. 

The third version I have read from somewhere is a story where The First Tapas ever was cheese, since cheap wine was smelling so bad that Tavern owners started to serve free cheese to cover the bad smell of the wine.

And somehow I have a feeling there is a 4th and 5th and.. version as well. 

So, pick your choice!  Tapas is here to stay and they are just great!

There are 2 kinds of Tapas- Bars what Ive noticed, some have their Tapas on display and some have a menu where to choose. I have even been to a Tapas bar with my friend where waiters came outside to terrace with plates in their hands to show and sell!

Tapas can be served cold or hot.
Usually, Ive noticed, bars have +/- 10 different tapas they serve, some less, some more.
Tapas can be something seafood or fish
(anchovis, tuna, salmon, calamaris, squid, shrimps, gambas, sardines .... ).

Also some part of the menu is always chicken. It can be chicken in skews or in herbs and spices or just plain hot wings, or chicken curry or anything..

Some Tapas are vegetables, often green peppers...or whatever is that "season". Olives and mushrooms are popular too.

Olives and salted peanuts are also something, in some bars, what you will get free of charge to accompany your drinks.

Then, of course, Serrano ham or other Spanish ham is everywhere!

Serrano Ham is often served with Melon.  Also pork can be find done in different ways. I have even seen Chili Con Carne in one Tapas Bar.

Tapas can be also little salads;
seafood salads, mayonnaise salads or just tomato salads on a little bowl.

russian salad

Tapas is also Cheese! Manchego cheese is Spanish and very popular.
Cheese can be ordered as it is, or melted.

Normally, I have noticed, people orders one Tapa at the time. They usually are all priced the same, so you keep the wooden stick that is often attached to the Tapa, and then when you leave you count the little sticks to see how many you ate. This is especially a common procedure with Pinchos (pintxos) ,
a Basque version of Tapas.  Pincho means "spike".  Pintxos are served on a slice of bread.

I thought these were great.. we ordered more! 

I have also noticed that the size of portions changes in different bars.
I went to a one tapas place with my girlfriend, and we were pretty hungry, so we ordered few things at the same time. And had no idea they were this big! 1euro each plate and we had several!

That was Lunch no Tapas! Much better than McDonalds 1euro cheeseburger:)

And last, but for sure, not least! Probably the most famous Tapas there is..
Albondigas and Tortilla de Patatas. Meatballs and Spanish Omelette.
What I have noticed, they are served in everyplace.

Tortilla in tapas bars has been a big fat piece of a omelette "cake"

Potatoes are also served as Patata Brava, not only as omelette. They are boiled and fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce and some aioli.
Meatballs are served also in a spicy tomato sauce, is it the same sauce? I don't know..

here is a funny video how you can make your own  Tortilla de Patatas, the spanish way!

So basically, Tapas can be anything! And easy to do home as well, for family and friends.

And I also think that its not so serious business, Tapas -idea can be easily "copy and pasted" to all cooking, not just Spanish! This is our Finnish lunch for kiddies on Finnish Independence day last December.

here in Spain supermarkets sell these ready-made-packs incase you feel lazy

Here you can see what Tapas looks like and what ingredients can be used :

Thats if Folks! Buen Provecho!

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