Dinner or la cena is served a lot later in Spain than in most countries, so if you find yourself traveling extensively across Madrid, Barcelona, or Granada, don’t expect the locals to eat dinner until after 9:30 P.M. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to go hungry for a couple of hours. The Spanish love to eat, and they do so several times a day. If it’s too early for dinner, go have tapas instead.

“A tapa in Spain is essentially a snack served in most bars or restaurants to accompany the drink, alcoholic or not,” explains Catalonia-born Chef Jordi Martinez who is now Barcino’s corporate chef. It is quite different from the tapa that we are familiar with, even though Spanish and Filipino cuisines have been known to overlap. Want to know more about Spanish tapas? Read on!

1. Tapas are quite varied.

Tapas are not limited to just ham and chorizos. They can range from stuffed olives and tiny fried squids to fresh mushrooms and delicious meatballs. They can be as served as croquettes, but they can also be offered with bread.

2. They take on different names.

The term tapa itself may change depending on which area of Spain you find yourself in. “In Aragon and Navarra, the name of tapa is alifara,” explains Chef Jordi. In some areas of northern Spain like Asturias and Pais Vasco, tapas are known as pintxos.

3. Tapas are all about socializing.

Tapas are best eaten with the company of friends. In fact, there is a special word—tapear—which means to go and eat tapas.

4. The wine you pair tapas with are traditionally region-specific.

In Pais Vasco, people generally pair their tapas with the white wine txakoli. In Catalonia, you should try the penedès wine or cava. On that note, we should also mention that it is customary for bars in Granada to include tapa free with any drink.

5. They have a rich history.

There are many stories on how the tapa came to existence. Some say that it is borne from an old custom of covering goblets and wine glasses in taverns or tabernas in Spain. Others claim that it was created for King Alfonso X the Wise who, because of an illness, had to content himself with small snacks in between small sips of wine.

(Photos courtesy of Barcino)

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