chili vinegar


For the spritual concept, see Tapas (Sanskrit); for the Spanish film, see Tapas (film).

Tapas (ˈtapˌas) is the name of a wide variety of appetizers in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as puntillitas, which are battered, fried baby squid).

In the United States and the United Kingdom, tapas have evolved into an entire cuisine. In these countries, patrons of tapas restaurants can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal.

The serving of tapas is thought 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.


According to legend, the tapa tradition began when Castile's King Alfonso the Wise recovered from an illness by drinking wine and nibbling small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered taverns to serve their guests food along with wine and the tapas became a kind of loophole in the law to allow drinkers to imbibe alcohol.

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. 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. Soon the lowly tapa (from tapa derived the verb tapar, "to cover") became as important as the sherry.

Tapas evolved over Spain's history through the incorporation of ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. The east coast was invaded by the Romans, who introduced the olive and irrigation methods. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century also brought olives to the south, as well as 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), beans and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain's micro-climates.


Tapa means "lid" or "cover" in Spanish. There are several explanations for the etymology of "tapa":

  • A commonly cited explanation is that an item, be it bread or a flat card, etc., would often be placed on top of a drink to protect it from fruit flies; at some point it became a habit to top this "cover" with a snack.
  • It is also commonly said that since one would be standing while eating a tapa in traditional Spanish bars, they would need to place their plates on top of their drinks in order to eat, making it a top.
  • Some believe that the name originated sometime around the 16th century when tavern owners from Castilla-La Mancha found out that the strong taste and smell of mature cheese could help disguise that of bad wine, thus "covering" it, and started offering free cheese when serving cheap wine.
  • Another popular explanation says that the king Alfonso XII stopped by a famous venta (inn) in Cádiz (Andalusian city) where he ordered a cup of sherry. The waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king, to protect the wine from the beach sand, as Cádiz is a windy place. The king, after drinking his wine and eating the tapa, ordered another sherry "with the same cover".

Tapas in Spain

In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. (sometimes as late as 12 midnight), leaving significant time between work and dinner. Therefore, Spaniards often go "bar hopping" (Ir de tapas) and eat tapas in the time between finishing work and having dinner. Since lunch is usually served between 1 and 3 p.m., another common time for tapas is weekend days around noon as a means of socializing before lunch proper 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 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 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 Madrid, León, Asturias, Extremadura, and in parts of Andalusia, when you go to a bar and order a drink, you will often get a tapa for free. In León, a city in northwest Spain, an entire zone known as the Barrio Humedo is dedicated to tapas bars each serving their own unique dish served free with a corto (small beer) or glass of wine. Sometimes, especially in Northern Spain, they're also called pinchos (spelled pintxos in Basque) in Navarre , the Basque Country , Cantabria and in some provinces like Salamanca. They're called that 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 bread it has been attached to and to keep track of the number of tapas the customer has eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shape or size toothpicks. Tapa price ranges from 1.00 to 1.50 euros. Another name for them is banderillas (diminutive of bandera "flag"), in part because some of them resemble the colorful spears 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 dishes

Means "Garlic and oil" in Catalan. The classic ingredients are only garlic, oil and salt, but the common form of it includes Mayonnaise and garlic. A very strong garlic paste. Served on bread or with potatoes, fish, meat or grilled vegetables. Bacalao
Salted cod loin served very thinly usually served with bread and tomatoesBoquerones
White anchovies served in vinegar (boquerones en vinagre) or deep fried.Calamares or rabas
Rings of battered squid.Carne mechada
Slow-cooked, tender beef. [1]Chopitos
Battered and fried tiny squid. Also known as puntillitas.Cojonuda. (Superb female)
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 in Burgos.Cojonudo. (Superb male)
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
Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine.Chorizo a la sidra
Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in cider.Croquetas
A common sight on bar counters and in homes across Spain, served as a tapa, light lunch, or a dinner along with a salad.Empanadas or empanadillas
Small or large turnovers filled with meats and vegetables.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).Pimientos de Padrón
Small green peppers from Padrón (a municipality in the province of A Coruña in the region of Galicia) that are fried in olive oil. Most are very mild, but a few in each batch are quite spicy.Pincho moruno
A spicy kebab-like stick, made of pork or chicken. 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 tiny squid. Also known as chopitos.Queso con anchoas
Castilla or Manchego cured cheese with anchovies on top.Rajo
Pork 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 sauceSolomillo al whisky, or al güisqui
Fried pork scallops, marinated using whisky, brandy or white wine and olive oil.Tortilla de patatas, also known as Tortilla española
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.Stuffed Mussels (Tigres): In Navarre, these stuffed mussels are called tigres ("tigers") because of their fieriness.

Tapas in the United States and the United Kingdom

Upscale tapas restaurants and tapas bars are common in many cities of the United States and the United Kingdom. In these establishments, a selection of tapas is typically served as a main course. As with any cuisine exported from its original country, there can be significant differences between the original Spanish dishes and the dishes as they are served abroad.

Tapas in the Philippines

The concept of Spanish tapas — eating little plates of food with alcoholic beverages — has a long tradition in the Philippines. But tapa in the Philippines has little resemblance to the original Spanish meaning of the word. Rather, it is a traditional dish of salt-cured beef that is similar to American-style beef jerky.

Filipino tapa (mostly made with beef, occasionally with venison or wild boar) is fried and eaten as a full meal, usually for breakfast with garlic-fried rice and fried eggs, along with a chili-vinegar dip.

Beef tapa may also be crisp-fried and served as a proper Spanish-style tapas with alcoholic drinks in Filipino bars and restaurants. There is also a sweet variant of tapa, with the sugar added last so as to avoid a burnt taste. Another variant is the sarciado-type (wet), which has strips of beef cooked in water, vinegar, and soy sauce and flavoured with calamansi, garlic, and sugar.

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