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Jun 06 2019

Let's Celebrate the World Tapas Day!

In Spain, we celebrate tapas and their cultural importance all year long, but internationally there is one date that serves to remind everyone around the world that tapas are a 100% Spanish creation. El Día Mundial de la Tapa—World Tapas Day—will be held on June 20th, and delicious activities will be organized in many countries. Below we talk about activities in Canada and Vietnam, and we share some details to give people a better understanding of tapas.

What's in a tapa 

To highlight the large number of activities held around the world in honor of World Tapas Day, we're traveling to America and Asia. The Spanish Embassies' Economic and Commercial Offices in Toronto (Canada) and Ho Chi Mihn City (Vietnam) are participating in events to promote Spanish gastronomy and products in both countries.

It’s no secret that restaurants and diners around the world have taken Spanish tapas culture to heart. World Tapas Day recognizes this vital element of Spanish cuisine and culture. To honor this festive day, the George Brown College Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts will organize the World Tapas Day Culinary Market on Thursday, June 20th, with several of Toronto's most exciting chefs on hand to craft palate-tempting tapas and delicacies. Foods & Wines from Spain is the event sponsor for the World Tapas Day Culinary Market.

In Vietnam, 24 Spanish and Mediterranean restaurants (10 in Hanoi, 10 in Ho Chi Minh City, and 4 in Da Nang) will offer an exclusive selection of tapas at a special price, paired with a Spanish beverage (wine, sangría, or beer). This activity is being sponsored by the Spanish Embassy's Economic and Commercial Office in Ho Chi Minh City.
To encourage Vietnamese consumers to try as many tapas as possible, a Tapa Passport is available for each city, and people will earn a stamp as they try the different tapas in each restaurant. Those that obtain stamps from all of the restaurants will be entered into a raffle. Prizes include gift baskets with Spanish products, dinners for two at several of the participating restaurants, and a round-trip ticket to Spain.
This event will be held on the 20th in Hanoi and Da Nang, while the tapas celebration in Ho Chi Minh will extend over four days, from the 20th to the 23rd of June.

A tapa is a tapa is a tapa...

Not so, in fact. Though "tapas" is the general term used as a catchall for this gastronomic culture, there is actually a range of different formats when it comes to Spanish tapas. Here is a guide to keeping your tapas straight: tapa usually refers to a small plate of food meant for sharing – just a bite or two to accompany whatever you're drinking. If you want a larger portion of whatever peaks your appetite, order a ración (ration), or its slightly smaller version, a media ración (half-ration); both of these are also intended for sharing. Conversely, the popular pintxos (called pinchos elsewhere in Spain) that are typical of Basque Country and Navarre, are usually intended for individual consumption; each a single morsel of perfectly balanced flavors.

The same is true for banderillas, which usually consist of some combination of olive, pickled vegetable and an anchovy or boquerón – among other things –  skewered onto a toothpick in a single salty, vinegary, delicious bite. Tostas, are of course slices of toasted bread of different shapes and sizes, served hot or cold with something on top. Some bars might also use the French term canapé when the topping is placed on a toasted or untoasted slice of baguette. Still other formats you might find include cazuelas or cazuelitas – coaster-sized clay dishes that are particularly popular in Seville, for example, which might be used for serving a small portion of stew next to a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

Seville is also known for its montaditos, which are like mini sandwiches served on tiny ciabatta-like rolls. Both there and in the rest of Spain, the word pulguita is used for different types of mini sandwiches or bocadillos, usually on baguette-style bread. In terms of accompaniments, things that aren't already perched on bread are almost always served with either bread, picos – different versions of oblong, hard bread sticks about the size of a gherkin, or their square or rectangular cousins, regañadas.

To pay or not to pay...

What's in a tapa

The legend of the free tapa is a wonderful one, and in many cases it’s true, but this is not the case everywhere in Spain. In Madrid, for example, when you order a drink at a tapas bar, it always comes with something to nibble on, which might be bigger or smaller, simpler or more complex, depending on where you go. It might take the form of something basic like a basket of potato chips fried in olive oil, or a dish of salted almonds or olives. Or it might be a piece of bread with a slice of chorizo or some other sausage on top, a piece of cheese, a hunk of freshly made tortilla on a toothpick, or anything else that strikes the fancy of the bartender or chef. In Granada, however, free tapas are usually generous portions of things like steaming potatoes fried with onions and peppers, fried fish or seafood, stews, or even a dish of rice or Spanish croquetas – plenty to dine on as long as you keep your drinks coming. Other Spanish cities known for their free tapas include León and Salamanca, where these ample dishes are often meaty – emphasis on the region's excellent pork and pork sausages like chorizo and salchichón.

When to go for tapas

What's in a tapa

Tapas are typically thought of as either an aperitivo type of food – the perfect accompaniment to a drink before lunch on a weekend – or something to either snack on in the evening or dine on at night, or both. Friends might meet up for tapas and a drink in the evening, for example, before going out for a sit-down meal an hour or two later. Or, more typically, meeting up for tapas often turns into dinner out on the town, where friends visit one or more tapas bars, having a drink and something to eat in each one until satisfied.

What to drink

What's in a tapa

Though typical libations for eating tapas all over Spain include the country's beloved small, cold glasses of beer – known as cañas in Madrid, cervecitas in Andalusia and zuritos in Basque Country – what to drink is often subject to the part of Spain you are in. In Catalonia, a glass of sparkling Cava is an obvious choice. At aperitivo hour, vermouth is popular in both Catalonia and Madrid, where it is often served on tap straight out of the barrel. The drink of choice in Asturias is often locally-made cider, and in the province of Cádiz and elsewhere in Andalusia, a glass of dry sherry like a Manzanilla or Amontillado is a traditional and still-popular option. In other important wine regions like Castile-León, for example, one would do well to order a glass of regional Ribera del Duero, Toro, Cigales, Bierzo or Rueda wine, depending on exactly where you are and whether you want red or white. It would border on sacrilege to order a glass of wine from any other region at a bar in La Rioja. In terms of non-alcoholic drinks, a popular choice all over Spain is mosto, white or red grape juice, served with a slice of lemon or orange.

Traditional or avant-garde

One reason Spanish tapas are so ubiquitous is that there truly are no limits when it comes to the range of possibilities they present. On the one hand, classic Spanish tapas like Ibérico ham, tortilla, croquetas, olives, and cheese will always have their place of pride in Spanish gastronomy. The same is true for the traditional pintxos found in places like San Sebastián, Bilbao and Pamplona, which adorn bars with tray after tray of colorful, seasonal products. However, in recent years tapas have become a vehicle for the infinite creativity of avant-garde chefs who create miniature masterpieces that stun and delight the palate. Acclaimed Spanish chefs like Paco Roncero, Albert Adrià, Ricard Camarena, Jordi Cruz, Paco Pérez, and others, have opened tapas bars to complement their flagship restaurants. Likewise, the first courses of Michelin-star tasting menus both in Spain and beyond often begin with a selection of heart-stopping tapas, or bite-sized morsels. Whether modern or traditional, free or not, individual or meant for sharing, the wonderful thing about Spanish tapas is that their ubiquity and infinite variations guarantee they are here to stay.

Not so, in fact. Though "tapas" is the general term used as a catchall for this gastronomic culture, there is actually a range of different formats when it comes to Spanish tapas. Here is a guide to keeping your tapas straight: tapa usually refers to a small plate of food meant for sharing – just a bite or two to accompany whatever you're drinking Adrienne Smith/©ICEX
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