Spanish gastronomy is a fundamental part of our culture, with a long and exciting history. With so many different regions, products and traditions, a great variety and culinary richness is inevitable, but if there is something that defines it, it is, perhaps, the noble art of aperitifs and tapas. Although it is not exclusively Spanish custom, it does have some very particular features that have become a known hallmark throughout the world, and draw a map of the best appetizers in Spain it is embarking on an irresistible journey.
It is difficult to choose just a few appetizers or tapas that define each region, because as I have already said, the variety and richness of each town is immense. Today we also find many appetizers that are common to almost the entire country, with their small differences, and the latest trends in miniature creative and signature cuisine have further complicated the picture. But we can go through our particular gastronomic map paying a small tribute to some of the best appetizers that can accompany us on a most tempting route.
What exactly is an aperitif?
It seems like a silly question but the answer is not as simple as it might seem. In Spain we are all clear that it is a food in a small portion that is taken with a drink before the main meal. Although it is also true that each of us can interpret the moment of the aperitif in our own way, making it more or less forceful, and giving more or less importance to the drink.
The RAE collects several meanings under this same entry, although those that interest us are essentially three:
- adj. That serves to whet the appetite.
- Drink taken before a main meal.
- Food that usually accompanies the aperitif.
The association of the word with a moment of refreshment is relatively recent, since before it was associated with the third meaning, of medical use, “a thing that opens and cleans the tracks“. The word comes from the late Latin, aperitīvus, an adjective form of aperĭre,” to open. “In other countries the Latin root is also practiced and even maintained, although usually with more emphasis on the alcoholic beverage that is prepared for us before eating. definitive, It is about whetting the appetite, and for this it is necessary to refresh the throat with some liquid that should be accompanied with a initially light bite, or at least in small amounts. Inside the aperitif is where our famous tapas come in, today a hallmark of Spanish cuisine and culture in general, which tends to triumph among tourists from all over the world.
There are many myths and legends surrounding the birth of the cover and I recommend the excellent article by Ana V. Pérez de Arlucea that sheds some light on the matter. In any case, the tapa or aperitif was originally a cheap way of eating that soon acquired great social importance at the same time that it was gaining in popularity. Tapa, pincho, montadito … there are many formats that have become complicated with the latest news. You can have lunch and dinner based on appetizers – thus breaking its supposed function – and there are thousands of creative proposals that try to innovate with greater or lesser success. But there are tapas and pinchos that never fail, that will never go out of style and that continue to wait for us in the bars of bars all over Spain. These are some of the best appetizers.
Perhaps Andalusia is the Autonomous Community that is traditionally most associated with aperitifs and tapas, and it is that many of the most typical dishes that accompany beers, wines and vermouths come in some way from this delicious land. It is difficult to make only one selection, even more so considering the huge territory full of cities and towns with their specialties, but we can highlight the importance of olive oil and the presence of both seafood and meat recipes, and a large presence of local vegetables.
Today they are all over the country but the Gazpacho, the Salmorejo and also him White garlic, you have to place them here, like the essential fried fish, olives and preserves such as anchovies in vinegar. With good oil the Andalusian bar masters the art of frying also with products from the garden, but let us mention for example the dressing potatoes, delicious when they are of true quality, or the ratatouille in some of its variants. The shrimp omelette is another unforgettable specialty, as well as fish marinades and the nettles.
Due to its geographical location, its orography and its contact with different peoples throughout history, Aragón has developed its own gastronomy determined by the circumstances that many maintain today. traditional recipes, but increasingly updating your kitchen. In this way, large capitals such as Zaragoza are pointing out ways with many proposals from more creative restaurateurs, and signature tapas is emerging strongly, soaking up the trends that can be seen in any bar in Spain.
In Aragon it is necessary to emphasize as own dishes the preparations with local vegetables such as borage or the thistle, asparagus Y onions. In addition, the pork and all the derivative products that are made with it, such as pork, undoubtedly stand out. Teruel ham, the arbiello waves sausages of Aragon. The Aragonese ham and meat croquettes and some tapas such as the ham with chorreras -hard boiled egg, ham and cheese- or the shredded cod they have acquired a good reputation. The silly eggs They are another of those ancient recipes that defied hunger and that today can be eaten as an aperitif without any problem.
I recognize that I have a weakness for Asturias, a wonderful land in every way. Of course, as in all the north of the Cantabrian coast, here you eat very well, also at aperitif time. The most common recipes and dishes cross borders with their close neighbors in the Basque Country and Cantabria, but there are unique specialties that deserve to be highlighted. Apart, of course, from what the port offers that day closest in terms of tapas and portions of fish and seafood.
The fish cake It is common throughout the north, although in Asturias there is also more taste for hake and not just scorpionfish. The fresh or preserved bonito not lacking in the options of skewers and toasts, also in appetizer portions for example with tomato. It is worth trying the Afghan squid when they meet -recipe of the Magic Spoon-, in addition to the popular Chorizo with cider. The preñaos buns go well with a cider or a cane, just like the boroñu preñao, with cornmeal, something stronger and better to share. Nor can you forget the magnificent cheeses, by themselves or as part of various snacks.
Canarian cuisine is somewhat different from mainland cuisine for being a secluded archipelago, made up of many islands and for its multicultural history in which many different peoples have left their mark, evolving in unique traditions. It is a generally simple but very tasty cuisine in which the local product is very pampered, unique in the whole country. Here the appetizer or starter of a main meal is known as enyesque.
And as an aperitif you can taste, in addition to fish and seafood, the popular old clothes, shit liver, roast leg -excellent sandwich filling-, gofio, cheeses like the majorero or palmero, salads and vegetable dishes, and sausages such as sweet blood sausage and the spreadable chorizo. Yes, the wrinkled potatoes, with mojo picón, which only taste the same if the authentic Canarian potato is used, which can also be spread with almogrote of cheese.
Cantabrian cuisine maintains the line of its neighboring regions, with excellent raw materials from the sea and the garden, good canned fish and without forgetting the magnificent bovine and hunting in the strongest dishes. But at the time of the aperitif, the best thing is to approach the coastal areas and indulge in sharing rations, casseroles and dishes of the best that the port has offered that day.
Although flavors of the Basque Country or Asturias are repeated, for example the fish cake and skewers in very varied forms, in Cantabria you cannot miss the squid rabas fritas, a symbol especially in Santander. And, of course, its magnificent anchovies, which can be part of rich salads with roasted peppers, good tomato in season and also delicious beautiful. The pickles are usually of high quality and splashes they feel great in summer.
Castilla la Mancha
It really shares many characteristics with its previous neighbors, also, inevitably, with the other towns with which it borders – Andalusia, Murcia or Madrid. Many snacks come from La Mancha that we visualize when we think of “Castilian food”, with many rural recipes of humble origin, taking advantage of the seasonal product and also with dishes strong and caloric, especially for winter, which continue to be repeated in smaller versions for the aperitif.
They highlight the atascaburras, the asadurilla and the zarajos -Itterins- of lamb, the carcamusa of meat and tomato, a lid of crumbs or the morteruelo spread on bread. A lighter tapas can be completed with the iconic Manchego pisto and the essentials aubergines from Almagro. In capitals such as Toledo again today there is a good offer of tapas with original creations such as the famous pumps, meat-stuffed potato balls that live up to their name.
Castile and Leon
In the other Castilla we once again enter some interior lands with vast territories in which rural life and its harsh winters have marked the most traditional gastronomy. In recent years the panorama has been revitalized, especially in the world of tapas with numerous events, highlighting the Valladolid contest, which is why creative proposals of all kinds can be seen in the bars. Focusing on the most typical products, there is an abundance of meats, a lot of slaughter tradition, good ones cheeses and a great taste for mushrooms.
In addition to a huge variety of sausages and cold meats derived from pork, inevitably highlighting the blood sausage from Burgos, you can not forget the Lion smoked beef and dishes like jeta of Salamanca. The torreznos They are almost an institution to accompany the aperitif drink and there is also a lot of fondness for …