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|Course||Appetizer or snack|
|Place of origin||Spain|
|Serving temperature||Hot or cold|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
|Course||Appetizer or snack|
|Place of origin||Spain|
|Serving temperature||Hot or cold|
Tapas (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtapas]) are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squids). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, and sometimes sophisticated, cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. In some Central American countries, such snacks are known as bocas. In Mexico, similar dishes are called "botanas."
The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation, because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them. Also, in some countries it is customary for diners to stand and move about while eating tapas.
The word "tapas" is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, "to cover".
According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry (see below for more explanations). The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.
Tapas have evolved through Spanish history by incorporating ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. Most of the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Romans, who introduced the olive and irrigation methods. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The influence of their 700-year presence remains today, especially in Andalusia. The discovery of the New World brought the introduction of tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers, maize (corn) and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain's microclimates.
There are many tapas competitions throughout Spain. There is only one National Tapas competition, which is celebrated every year in November. Since 2008, the City of Valladolid and the International School of Culinary Arts have celebrated the International Tapas Competition for Culinary Schools. Various schools from around the world come to Spain annually to compete for the best tapa concept.
Though the primary meaning of tapa is cover or lid, it has in Spain also become a term for this style of food. The origin of this new meaning is uncertain but there are several theories:
In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 and 11 p.m. (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 in the time between finishing work and having dinner. Since lunch is usually served between 2 and 4 p.m., another common time for tapas is weekend days around noon as a means of socializing before proper lunch at home.
It is very common for a bar or a small local restaurant to have eight 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 plentiful amounts 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 seasonings. It is rare to see a tapas selection not include one or more types of olives, such as Manzanillo or Arbequina olives. One or more types of bread are usually available to eat with any of the sauce-based tapas.
In Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Asturias, Extremadura, and in parts of Andalucia, when one goes to a bar and orders a drink, often a tapa will be served with it for free. As a drink, it is usual to ask for a caña (small beer), a chato (glass of wine) or a mosto (grape juice). In several cities, entire zones are dedicated to tapas bars, each one serving its own unique dish. In León, one can find the Barrio Húmedo, in Logroño Calle Laurel and in Burgos Calle de la Sombrerería and Calle de San Lorenzo.
Sometimes, especially in northern Spain, they are also called pinchos (pintxos in Basque) in Asturias, in Navarre, in La Rioja (Spain), the Basque Country, Cantabria and in some provinces, such as Salamanca, because many of them have a pincho or toothpick through them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever the snack is made of from falling off the slice of bread and to keep track of the number of tapas the customer has eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shapes or have toothpicks of different sizes. The price of a single tapa ranges from one to two euros. Another name for them is banderillas (diminutive of bandera "flag"), in part because some of them resemble the colorful spears used in bullfighting.
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 tapas are being ordered by more than one person. The portions are usually shared by diners, and a meal made up of raciones resembles a Chinese dim sum, Korean banchan or Middle Eastern mezze.
The term tapas narrowly refers to a type of Spanish cuisine, but it is also used more broadly to refer to any similar format dining. This is referred to more formally as small plates, but tapas is common. Such dishes are traditionally common in many parts of the world, and have become increasingly popular in the English-speaking world since about 2000, particularly under the influence of Spanish tapas.
Upmarket tapas restaurants and tapas bars are common in many cities of the United States, Mexico, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. As with any cuisine exported from its original country, there can often be significant differences between the original Spanish dishes and the dishes as they are served abroad.
In Mexico, there are not many tapas bars. However, the "cantinas botaneras" come close to the Mexican version of a tapas bar, but they operate on a very different business model. The appetizers (botanas) keep coming as long as the patron keeps ordering beer, liquor or mixed drinks. The more the patron (usually a government or area employee) drinks, the more he / she eats, which may or may not be a good thing if they are to return to work afterwards. These establishments, some over a hundred years old, such as La Opera, are particularly popular around the Centro Historico in Mexico City, but there are similar cantinas farther out in Coyocan or even in somewhat nearby cities like Xalapa, Veracruz.
Picada is a type of tapas eaten in Argentina, usually involving only cold dishes, such as olives, ham, salami and different types of cheese.
Tira-gostos (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈtʃiɾɐ ˈɡoʃtuʃ]) or petiscos ([peˈtʃiʃkuʃ]) are served in the bars of Brazil and typical as tapas-like side dishes to accompany beer or other alcoholic drinks. The better bars tend to have a greater variety, and rarer, more traditional, dishes (using, for example, lamb or goat meat, which are relatively uncommon in the diet of urbanites in southern Brazil).
People from the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, which had the most Portuguese and the second-most Spanish immigration in Brazil, are among those who are most proud of their bar culture as a symbol of the city´s nightlife, but bars that serve a variety of tapas-like side dishes are common in all state capitals and cities with more than 700,000 inhabitants.
Many tapas typical of Spanish cuisine that are rarer dishes in Portugal are more easily found in Brazil, due to the presence of the cultural heritage of the Spanish Brazilians as a result of immigration.
In Korea, drinking establishments often serve anju (안주) of various types, including meat, seafood, and vegetables. In Japan, izakaya are drinking establishments that serve accompaniments similar to tapas. In the Philippines, the term tapa has come to refer to a traditional dish of salt-cured beef served at breakfast.
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