What’s on the Menus in Spain

Not so long ago, Fuengirola was a small fishing village on the southern coast of Spain, a picturesque, but insignificant stop on the way from Cadiz to Malaga. Today it is a thriving resort, but it’s marine roots have not been forgotten. Fish play an important part on the local menu, and in particular as part of the selection of delicacies available known as tapas.

Tapas, like its Greek equivalent, meze, is served in small plates, but unlike meze which is usually bought as a large spread, tapas can be purchased one dish at a time and is intended as a light accompaniment to a drink at lunchtime or early evening. The great thing about tapas is not just that it is a tasty way to fill the gap between larger meals, but it’s also cheap. The cost can vary from 1 euro to 2 euros depending on the bar, the quality and the quantity you are given. Two or three are usually enough to fill up on.

The variety available to you is endless. Each bar will have its own particular speciality and it’s up to you, the visitor, to explore and find the best in each category. Broadly speaking, the selection is divided between fish, meat and vegetable recipes. Top of the list of favourites is usually “ensalada rusa”, a Russian Salad made from eggs, tuna, vegetables and mayonnaise. This goes well with any of a number of other dishes such as a wedge of tortilla (Spanuish omelette) a meat stew or, perhaps, “pollo a la plancha” (grilled chicken). Popular specialities from the sea are the marine salad, a tasty concoction of octopus and prawns in a seafood sauce, and the well known small fish known as “boquerone”, This is a small sardine which can be served in garlic vinegar (en aceite) or fried (frito). These are just a few examples of a list which can extend to up to fifty different varieties. Liver, chorizos, and even paella, can be served as a tapas. Some bars serve “pinchos”, which are really tapas stacked on a slice of bread and held together with a cocktail stick. The most impressive is the “English breakfast” pincho which is a quail’s egg, slice of bacon, sausage and tomato all tottering over a chunk of baguette. The only limit to what you can do is the imagination of the chef.

All these recipes can usually be ordered as a main meal too, so tapas is a brilliant way of trying out new things. When you have found your favourite, just go large and add bread or potatoes for a really satisfying meal.