Tapas: The Latino answer to dim sum ~ Learn Spanish language fast | free memory tricks | Spanish vocabulary lessons.
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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tapas: The Latino answer to dim sum


The original tapas were the slices of bread that sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. But soon, enterprising bartenders were putting small snacks on the bread, and the lowly tapa (tapar: to cover) became as important as the sherry.


Tapas is a generic name for a wide variety of appetizers in Latino cuisine. In southern Spain, they come mostly to accompany a drink before lunch or dinner. Mostly, tapas come warm such as puntillitas (Andalusian battered, fried baby squid). Others are cold, such as mixed olives and cheese.

Tapas evolved over time to incorporate ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. Olives were brought into the east coast by the Roman invaders. Later, they were introduced to the south by the Moors in the 8th century, along with almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The Moorish influence remains today, especially in Andalusia. The discovery of the New World brought in tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers (capsicums), corn, beans and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain's micro-climates.

In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 and 11 in the night (sometimes as late as midnight!), leaving significant time between work and dinner. Therefore, Spaniards often go bar hopping (Spanish: Ir de tapas) and eat tapas. Since lunch is usually served between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, another common time for tapas is weekend days around noon as a means of socializing before lunch at home.

It is very common for a bar or a small local restaurant to have 8 to 12 different kinds of tapas in warming trays with glass partitions covering the food. They are often very strongly flavored with garlic, chilies or paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and sometimes in a lot of olive oil. Often, one or more of the choices is seafood (mariscos), often including anchovies, sardines or mackerel in olive oil, squid or others in a tomato based sauce, sometimes with the addition of red or green peppers or other seasoning. It is rare to see a tapas selection not include one or more types of olives, such as manzanilla or arbequina olives. One or more types of bread are usually available to eat with any of the sauce-based tapas.

In the northern Spanish city of León, in Asturias, in Extremadura, and in parts of Andalusia, you get a free tapa when you order a drink. This happens mostly in the province of Jaén, Granada, Almería, but it is not very common in the rest of Andalusia. Sometimes, especially in Northern Spain, they're also called pinchos (spelled pintxos in Basque) in the Basque Country and in some provinces like Salamanca. They're called that because many of them have a pincho (toothpick) through them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever the snack is made of from falling off the bread it has been attached to and to track the number of tapas eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shape or size toothpicks. Tapa price ranges from €1.00 to €1.50. Another name for them is banderillas (diminutive of bandera, flag), in part because some of them resemble the colorful skewers used in bullfighting.

In Andalusia, tapas can be upgraded to bigger portions, equivalent to half a dish (media ración) or a whole one (ración). This is generally more economical when a tapa is being ordered by more than one person. The portions are usually shared by diners, and a meal made up of raciones resembles a Middle Eastern mezze or Chinese dim sum.

COMMON TAPAS

Aceitunas Olives

Albóndigas Meatballs

Allioli Meaning Garlic and oil in Catalan, a very strong garlic paste.
The classic ingredients are only garlic, oil and salt, but the common form of it is Mayonnaise and garlic. Served on bread or with potatoes, fish, meat or grilled vegetables.

Calamares Rings of battered squid.

Carne mechada.

Cojonuda (Superb female) It is a kind of pincho. It consists of a slice of Spanish morcilla with a fried quail egg over a slice of bread. It is very common to see it in Burgos because Spanish morcilla is also called morcilla de Burgos.

Cojonudo (Superb male) It is a kind of pincho. It consists of a slice of Spanish chorizo with a fried quail egg over a slice of bread.

Chorizo al vino This is Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine.

Croquetas These are a common sight on bar counters and in homes across Spain, served as a tapa, light lunch, or a dinner along with a salad.

Ensaladilla rusa Mixed boiled vegetables with tuna, olives and mayonnaise.

Gambas Prawns sauteed in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or pil-pil (with chopped chili peppers).

Pincho moruno A spicy kebab-like stick, made of pork or chicken meat. Its name means Moorish Stick.

Patatas bravas Fried potato dices (sometimes part-boiled and then fried, or simply boiled) served with salsa brava, a spicy tomato sauce. Alioli is often served with it too.

Puntillitas Battered and fried baby squid.

Queso con anchoas A cheese preparation; Castilla or Manchego cured cheese with anchovies on top.

Rajo Pork meat seasoned with garlic and parsley. A variety with added paprika is called Zorza.

Solomillo a la castellana Fried pork scallops, served with an onion and/or Cabrales cheese sauce

Solomillo al whisky, or al güisqui Fried pork scallops, marinated using whisky, brandy or white wine and olive oil.

Tortilla de patatas This is also known as Tortilla española. It's a type of omelette containing fried chunks of potatoes and sometimes onion. A variety containing vegetables and chorizo (similar to frittata) is known as Tortilla paisana.

Tortillitas de camarones Battered-prawn fritters.

Tigres In Bilbao, these stuffed mussels are called tigres (tigers) because of their fieriness.

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Heather said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I love learning about ethnic food because there is sooooo much out there I don't know, and so much I still want to try!
Reading this made me educated AND hungry :). Thanks!

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Tapas are huge in Spain now. Tere are even culinary contest in every major city to see which establishment whips up the best tapas.

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Lets not forget that a good tinto is an essential part of the tapas expierence.

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I love Tapas.epecially because of Garlic-marinated Black Olives: Attesting to the simplicity of tapas, a handful of marinated olives is often ample accompaniment to a glass of chilled sherry in most Spanish tapas bars. Marinated to piquant perfection, these olives are far from ordinary.

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Dim sum, the Chinese answer to brunch, is a fun weekend activity, especially with a large group willing to share and curious to try new things.I have seen Latinos eating special breakfast brunch dim sum in Chinatown.

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What's the difference between Yum Cha and Dim Sum? I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what the difference between Yum Cha and Dim Sum is. Basically my work mate and I were trying to think of the name for Chinese tapas type dining, she thought it was yum cha, and I thought it was dim sum, on google it's hard to find an actual explaination of the difference.

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What's the difference between Yum Cha and Dim Sum? I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what the difference between Yum Cha and Dim Sum is. Basically my work mate and I were trying to think of the name for Chinese tapas type dining, she thought it was yum cha, and I thought it was dim sum, on google it's hard to find an actual explaination of the difference.

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I ordered these because they looked and sounded like they tasted amazing according to Jonathan from Foodandtell. While not as mind blasting as the prosciutto roll, these were equally delightful for the uniqueness. The scallop itself had a sweet taste, something not uncommon in seafood, and the kiwi provided the slightly sour tang. A great ying-yang balance of flavours here.

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These plates of food are tapas, the best introduction to authentic Andalusian food. Tapas are small portions of foods, both hot and cold, served in bars, bodegas and tascas to accompany a copa of fino-- dry Spanish Sherry--or draught beer. You can enjoy tapas in most bars before the lunch hour (in Spain this is very late--tapas , and again before dinner .

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