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10 Lesser-Known Spanish Tapas to Try

Discovering a country, site by site, bite by bite: Tapas.

Nov 13, 2020

WITH ITS RICH MIX OF CULTURES AND FLAVORS, Spain promises new experiences in each new town, city and region, and it pays to lead with your tastebuds. Delicious discoveries offer a window into the destination and, thanks to Spain’s world-famous culinary tradition of small plates, it’s possible to sample them all.

Served since before the 19th century, tapas have become synonymous with the country’s warmth and welcome—could anything be more civilized than a morsel of Spanish omelette automatically placed next to your glass of wine or beer? From “tapar”, meaning “to cover”, tapas were once just thin pieces of bread or meat used to protect sweet sherry from fruit flies. The concept has spread and evolved with whole districts of cities now dedicated to small dishes, each bar or tavern specializing in a particular delicacy and each bite representing a distinct facet of Spanish culture and history.

Skewers of meat reflect the Moorish influences in Andalusia. Nibbles of succulent octopus in Galicia tell of the region’s proximity to the ocean. Head to the Basque Country and enjoy small dishes of haute cuisine called “pintxos” alongside glasses of wine, known as “txakoli”. Alternatively, accompany your “pintxo” with a “zurito”, the Basque name for a half-glass of beer.

Such is the appetite for the flavors of Spain that World Tapas Day is now an annual fixture on the third Thursday of every June. Across the country and around the world, Spanish restaurants and chefs take the opportunity to celebrate and elevate their national dishes with new recipes, tastings, wine pairings, talks and demonstrations.

From simple beginnings, tapas have captivated the hearts and palates of culinary enthusiasts the world over. Now, thanks to a unique blend of classic cookery and avant-garde techniques, Spain is a leader in global gastronomy, with a cadre of almost 250 Michelin stars lighting up the country. And whether humble or haute, each dish tells a story. The best part is, when they’re bite-sized, there’s room for all of them.

DIG IN

Delve deeper into authentic Spanish cuisine and explore the lesser-known, locally loved dishes that represent each region.

Cocido Madrileño
A hearty stew from Madrid. Made with chickpeas, meat and vegetables, it’s popular in winter.

Fabada Asturiana
Found in the autonomous principality of Asturias, this rich soup is made from fava beans.

Pescaito Fritos
Little white fish are battered, fried, seasoned and served in Andalusia, especially Seville and Cordoba.

Suckling Pig
Typical of Segovia in Castilla, a “cochinillo” is roasted and seasoned simply, to emphasize the meat’s natural flavor and tenderness.

Pisto
This mix of roasted tomatoes, onions, eggplant and peppers is common to Murcia, Castilla La Mancha and Extremadura.

Salmorejo
Made from tomatoes, bread, oil and garlic, this creamy cold soup originates from Cordoba in Andalusia.

Papas Arrugas
In the Canary Islands, “wrinkly potatoes” are boiled with skins on and served with mojo verde or mojo picon—delish salsas

Calçot
This singular green onion is grown in Catalonia, grilled over a hot fire, wrapped in newspaper and served on terra cotta tiles.

Tarta de Santiago
Dating to the Middle Ages, this delectable almond cake hails from Galicia.

Ensaïmada Mallorquina
A coiled pastry is sprinkled heavily with powdered sugar and enjoyed mainly in Mallorca.

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