If you ever really want to explore a country, you don’t just see it – you don’t just watch as it passes by from behind a window. You experience it, with all the senses; see, smell, hear, feel… taste!
If ever there was a country with great food at its heart, it’s Spain, and principal amongst the many wonderful dining experiences to be enjoyed here is tapas, small portions of food traditionally served on a plate resting on top of a glass of beer. This time-honoured method of service remains popular in present day Spain, though tapas is now sometimes served in selection platters as the main culinary event in itself, allowing groups of diners to share in a wider and more stimulating array of taste sensations than a set menu meal would typically provide, offering the flavours of a host or regions, styles and historical periods all in one sitting. If you’re going to explore Spain through your taste-buds, tapas is the way to do it.
Spain is a large country with distinct cultures contained within its regions. Combining with environmental factors, this results in a real diversity of food specialties across the nation, which means if you want to taste the very best this country has to offer, you’ve got to be willing to do a spot of travelling. Here are some of our top tips for where to taste the best examples of three classic tapas dishes in Spain:
Paella – This is one of the most popular tapas dishes in the world, combining vegetables, rice and traditionally seafood (though chorizo or chicken may also be used). For the finest paella experiences, head to the Basque region, where fresh catches of seafood and famously generous portion sizes will ensure a completely fulfilling experience of this classic dish – seek out an eatery where the meal is prepared in full view of the seating to enjoy the full theatre of the spectacle of your food sizzling in a vast paella dish – some of which exceed a meter in diameter.
Albóndigas – Another essential tapas fixture, these tasty beef or pork meatballs evoke a more rustic, hearty Spain. Typically served with a rich tomato sauce, this dish is best enjoyed in the country’s arid heartland – for particularly delicious examples visit the Extramadura region on the Portuguese border.
Almendras fritas – If you were ever under the impression that salted peanuts or pickled eggs were the ultimate bar snack, think again. Almendras fritas (fried almonds) are an extremely popular and extraordinarily moreish morsel prized in the late night bars and eateries of southern parts of Spain such as Valencia and Murcia, where the Moorish influence or northern Africa remains strong. You’ll never feel the same way about pork scratchings again!