Quintessentially Spanish, tapeo culture is at the heart of Spain’s heritage, and lively tapas bars can be found throughout the country. Rather than being a way of cooking, tapas is more about a way of eating, signifying socializing with friends and bonding with loved ones.
What is Tapas?
Tapas has made a name for itself all over the world, and is essentially a wide variety of small-portioned snacks that are traditionally served alongside alcoholic beverages. Tapas comes in all shapes and forms, from hot or cold to skewered or bubbling in clay pots to finger bites and sandwiches, and every region of Spain will have their own range of unique local tapas dishes.
The Best Time To Tapear
Tapas is such an important part of Spanish culture that there is even a verb, tapear, to describe the act of going for tapas. When it comes to the best time to tapear, this is usually in the early afternoon, between noon and 2pm, as this falls just before the Spanish lunchtime, and is when all of the local tapas bars compete with counters piled high with tempting fragrant bites. Each tapas bar will put their own unique spin on the dishes served, which is why visiting a few different tapas bars is always a popular activity in Spain.
Tapeo culture has its very own etiquette, and while a faux pas will not be frowned upon heavily, locals will appreciate your knowledge on this. It is usually customary for visitors to a tapas bar to not eat more than two tapas at one place, as the whole idea behind tapeo is it being a sort of gastronomic bar crawl. Since you are only going to be trying a couple of dishes at each place, you need to pay attention to how they complement each other, ordering dishes that work well together rather than those that feature opposing flavors. Tapas is usually eaten at the bar while standing, and, when it comes to paying the bill, Spaniards usually practice convida, which is where everybody pays for a round.
Popular Tapas Dishes
There are thousands of different tapas varieties out there, with the only limit being the chef’s imagination. Gambas are prawns that are sauteed in various sauces, from peppercorn to chopped chili peppers, while croquettes are a common fried dish that can be found in homes all across Spain. Patatas bravas are fried potato cubes that are usually served with a spicy salsa, and is another dish that is served up by the majority of tapas bars out there. Chorizo is another ingredient that is beautifully showcased in many tapas dishes, from chorizo al vino, in which it is slowly cooked in wine, to chorizo a la sidra, in which the chorizo is cooked in cider.
While tapas restaurants may be found all over the world, the only way to truly experience the tapeo culture is by visiting Spain. From the authenticity of the food served to the atmosphere of the bars, tapas culture is a Spanish tradition that is still thriving today.