Tapas is the definitive Spanish canapé or snack. It can be cold or hot, sweet or savoury, bite size or a bit chunky. They are served night and day, day in and day out in cervecerias throughout Spain.


It’s barely been 3 weeks since I left Barcelona behind and yet it seems like many, many meals ago. It’s probably because the food in Spain is always memorable. Tapas for sure, in its many varieties make up a huge part of the Spanish experience. The sheer variety is amazing and the choices differ from city to city.

This entry is called Tapas for Dummies for a reason. Choosing tapas can be confusing, even intimidating especially if you don’t speak the language so for the newbie, here’s a no fail list that will delight your tastebuds and will get you hooked on tapas throughout your stay in Spain.

In Barcelona or anywhere in Cataluya, there will always be Pan Con Tomate. This is as basic as tapas can get. It’s simply day old bread, rubbed with garlic and tomato and sprinkled with salt. It’s classic Catalan, and came about to keep stale bread from being thrown away, but what a combination! It’s absolutely delicious, and there’s something about eating it in Barcelona, simple as it is, I can never seem to replicate it at home.

Pan Con Tomate
Pan Con Tomate, a Catalan classic!

Next on my list would have to be the quintessential Jamon Iberico de Bellota, undoubtedly the finest ham in the world.  It starts with the breed, the noble black Iberico pig that is allowed to roam freely and is fed a diet exclusively of acorns or bellota. There’s an art to slicing the jamon as well as to eating it. It takes a special skill to slice each piece razor thin. To enjoy it, try putting a slice against the top of your palette and allow the marbled fat to melt in your mouth and release all the oils. Delicious!!

Jamon Iberico
A small plate of Jamon Iberico de Bellota is usually priced between E10 to E12

Another tapas basic is Patatas Bravas. When done well, these spuds are very, very good. It is what French Fries are to the Americans and pomme frites to the French. The Spanish version is much more flavourful. It is doused with a sauce made of sherry vinegar, saffron, hot pimenton, tomatoes, garlic and sugar. Sometimes it is served with jamon and a fried egg. A good Patatas Bravas should be served straight from the deep fryer, crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside and the sauce should be spicy, tangy and slightly tart. I’ve taken home bottled Patatas Bravas sauce, excited to recreate the experience but of course it wasn’t the same.

Patatas Bravas
This version has an aioli sauce as well as the red sauce

Let’s not forget the cheese! Manchego of course. There’s Semi Curado, Curado and Viejo. Semi Curado, aged for about 3 months would be supple and moist. Curado, aged for 6 months acquires a caramel flavour and is nutty. Viejo, aged for a year becomes crumbly and has a sweet, lingering taste. Manchego is produced in the La Mancha region of Spain, which is also home to Don Quixote. It is made from unpasteurised sheep’s milk and is one of the popular cheeses from Spain.

Manchego Cheese
This is Manchego Curado, aged for 6 months.

There’s also Boquerones Fritos or fried anchovies. They are simply seasoned with flour, fried in olive oil until crisp then drizzled with some lemon juice. Briny, salty and crunchy one serving is not enough. It’s seasonal though and is most available during the summer months.

Boquerones Fritos

My all time favourite is most definitely Pimientos de Padron, sizzled in olive oil, blistered then sprinkled with sea salt, it is a knock out! These thick skinned green peppers from Galicia in northwest Spain pack an amazing amount of flavour. They’re not spicy, they’re actually mild and I don’t know if it’s just me, but you will develop a craving for it. It was the first thing I ate in Barcelona.

Padron Peppers
Padron Peppers! The more blistered the skin the better!

Wash everything down with a pitcher of Sangria. Walk down any street lined with cafes and you’ll spot festive, giant pitchers and glasses of Sangria being enjoyed at all hours of the day and night especially during the summer months. There’s no one recipe for Sangria. It’s basically a fruit punch made with red wine, chopped fruit, brandy, orange juice and other ingredients. I do have a very good recipe for an award winning Sangria from a bartender in Valencia. I promise to share the recipe with all of you once I find in in my files.

Sangira! Salud!

So that was my list of tapas for dummies but really it’s a list of my favourites, available most likely in pretty much any tapas bar or restaurant across Spain.

When in Barcelona, Ciudad Condal is a great place for tapas. There’s always a line but it moves pretty fast. There are also lots of Filipino servers which is definitely a plus!

Adios for now!