When a group of five Indian journalists hosted by Spanish Tourism are on a familiarisation trip to Spain, and include four women, the gourmet experience becomes doubly enjoyable. But not for the poor lone man and other men from the tourism authority who took us around Valencia, Ibiza and Tarragona in September. The main reason is that like most women, we too were more interested in photographing the food as soon as it arrived, than consuming it!
Spain is huge on Tapas or starters, and all major Spanish cities have Tapas bars. Just as happens in pub crawls, which is a hugely popular activity in this European country too, it is not uncommon for the Spanish people to go from one Tapas bar to another in the course of an evening. And a local guide in Madrid had once told me: “The true test of the quality and popularity of a Tapas bar is that its floor should be littered with pieces of tissues or hand napkins and toothpicks which are carelessly thrown away after the Tapas disappears in your mouth.”
The number of delicious entrées that are served at these Tapas bars are often sufficient to form a meal by itself, particularly when washed down by the Spanish speciality Sangria, made with red wine, fruits and either orange juice or a fizzy soda.
Among Spanish Tapas, I find alioli the most irresistible. It is traditionally made just with only garlic and olive oil, with a little salt, but often embellished with mayonnaise and served with boiled or roasted potatoes. With freshly baked bread, it is so delicious, that once it appears on your table as an entrée, along with bread, it is difficult to stop devouring it!
Croquetas, which are mainly made with potatoes, but can have ham or other meat too, are often considered by many as the last word on Spanish tapas. Crunchy and delicious, you’ll almost never go wrong with a croqueta in Spain. Like Greece and some other Mediterranean countries, Spain too is big on potatoes and patatas bravas, made from fried potatoes, which are often parboiled before frying is another delicious entree here. Another popular tapas is Tortia, a Spanish omelette with chunks of potatoes and onions.
In the summer the Horchata bars are very popular in most Spanish cities. In Valencia we walk into a traditional Horchata bar. The drink looks milky but has no milk in it; it is made of tigernuts — a plant grown locally, but originally brought from Arabian influence in Spain. Low in fat content and high in antioxidants, the cool drink is delicious and relaxing. It is also the ideal refreshing drink for vegetarians and vegans and those with nut allergies.
The locals have it with churros, a very popular fried pastry made from dough. The trick is in choosing the bar which gives you the tastiest of Horchata with churros that are not oily but fresh, light and crunchy. During winters these bars serve churros with hot chocolate.
Text and pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat