Tapas is king in Spain, although you’ll find a wealth of regional specialties and favourites depending on where you are. Tapas literally means “lid” or “cover” and comes from a time when a cover was placed across the top of a glass of wine to protect it from fruit flies. The story goes that somewhere down the line, this cover became topped with a snack.
Tapas covers a multitude of variables from a handful of olives, bread and oil, Spanish omelette, Andalusian battered squid, Basque stuffed mussels and everything in between.
Tapas are perfect for bar hopping and sampling a range of specialities – the idea being you can order a few and then move onto the next bar before repeating the process for as long as you’re still hungry (and can still stand).
A typical Valencian rice dish, paella is cooked in a large flat frypan and usually contains vegetables and meat or seafood. It’s key ingredients are rice, saffron, and olive oil and a well-cooked paelle has a crispy caramalised bottom.
While it’s typical to one region, good paella can be had around the country, but it does pay to be a little choosy about where you eat it if you want to try the real thing (and not some microwaved version).
Churros – a lightly deep-fried skinny piece of pastry that is often sugared and dipped in hot chocolate and eaten for breakfast.
Tortilla – Spanish omelette made from eggs, potato and onion and sometimes also featuring spinach and mushroom. Served hot or cold as tapas and also as a boccadillo (filled roll) filling.
Jamon – cured ham is popular delicacy in Spain and is usually sliced fresh off the bone.
Bacalao – dried and salted cod
Chorizo – spicy pork sausage
The spanish drink wine with every meal and probably the best known among what’s on offer is Rioja – a red table wine from the north.
Queen of the white wine is cava – the delicious Spanish sparkling white.
Sangria – a wine based drink which was developed as a way to use up left over wine – is a tourist favourite, but often falls short of the quality mark and can leave you with a killer headache the next day.
Sherry from Jerez in Andalucía is the national drink. Try the dry sherry, known as fino or the wonderful manzanilla.
Spaniards love their beer or cerveza and makes a great addition to the spicy food on a hot day.