The latest culinary phenomenon to sweep the US is one that pits a group of restaurant-goers against an eclectic menu of delicious Spanish small plates, also known as “tapas.” It’s an experience that promotes collaboration, sharing, and a colorful arrangement of bite-size tastes that take people on a flavor-journey through Spain.
Tapas have become popular for two reasons: the novelty of sharing a wide variety of dishes, and the ensuing quality of those dishes. Tapas are steeped in Spanish culture and represent the best ingredients, techniques, and recipes the Iberian country has to offer.
These 5 tapas dishes represent just a sample of the plethora of possibilities that continue to turn people on to Spanish cuisine. They should be evidence enough to make your way to the nearest Tapas restaurant and try them out for yourself.
Or, better yet, why not start planning your next trip to Spain?
1 | Tortilla de Patata
Tortilla de patata is probably the most universally served, appreciated, and devoured Spanish tapa. Also known as the “Spanish omelette,” this dish is made of only three ingredients: egg, onion, and potato.
And in this simplicity comes true culinary bliss. The omelette is the perfect way to start out your tapas experience, and should give you an idea of what tapas are all about. It combines just a few quality ingredients with traditional technique to create something pure, refined, and impossibly to put down. You’ll probably want to order more than just one.
2 | Gambas al Ajillo
Gambas al Ajillo is the best shrimp you’ll have in your life. No, really! There are few things on planet earth better than these tiny morsels of the sea, smothered in oil and garlic and presented to you specifically for the purpose of firing up your taste buds.
Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but that shouldn’t undermine the pure flavor potential these crustaceans possess. Most versions of this dish are kicked up a few notches with the introduction of cayenne pepper, and sometimes paprika. However it’s prepared, you won’t want to let the last one go anywhere but down your own watering pie hole.
3 | Croquetas de Jamón
Croquettes are small, fried balls of corn-based batter mixed with a variety of additional ingredients. This tapa translates to “croquettes with ham,” and they are just as good as they sound. File these little guys under ‘appetizer of the year,’ right up there with buffalo wings and super nachos.
You can’t go wrong with fried batter, and these croquettes are the perfect pre-meal taste tantalizers, especially when accompanied by a light beer or glass of white wine. Summer truly can’t come soon enough.
4 | Patatas Bravas
If you haven’t had quite enough of potatoes yet, add patatas bravas to your growing list of must-haves. The potatoes are simply peeled, pan-fried, and topped with a spicy tomato-based sauce that brings everything together. Again, simplicity is the key.
The potato is a central element in Spanish cuisine, and this particular tapa is, in this writer’s opinion, the best way to celebrate them. Bravas, meaning ‘fierce’ in Spanish, is the perfect name for a dish that isn’t for those weary of a little heat. Faint of heart be warned.
5 | Pulpo a la Gallega
If you’re planning to prepare this dish yourself, be aware that octopus can be difficult to cook without turning it into what can best be described as Gumby. Before cooking, brine in salt water to help tenderize the flesh. Then boil it, and finish on the grill for the perfect, flavorful char.