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Eating in Valencia > About Tapas
The tapas are small portions of food, quite often delicacies, which have become a ritual in Spain.
The tapas originated as small snacks that the workers would take with them for a mid-day break, to keep hunger at bay until the proper dinner in the evening. They are still seen in pretty much the same way - the restaurants open quite late and the working hours are more spread out than in other countries, so the tapas are this light-hearted happening between the meals. Today, though, it has also become somewhat of a social ritual.
The tapas are not just food. They are a social event. The Spaniards like to eat when they get together, but often they are not up for a full meal. The tapas are a Spanish equivalent of the British "going for a pint". As such, tapas bars are always buzzing, conversations are striken even between total strangers.
Kinds of tapas
There are some very typical tapas which will be offered just about anywhere. Some of those are:
Patatas Bravas - fried potato cubes with mayonnaise and hot tomato sauce.
Ensaladilla Rusa - Russian Salad: diced carrot, potato, eggs, green beans mixed with tuna, olives, peas and mayonnaise.
Jamon - Spanish ham of different varieties, usually cured.
Chorizo - Spanish red spicy pork sausage, of different varieties. Can be hot (in red wine sauce) or cold.
Salsichon - another Spanish pork sausage, milder in taste.
Queso - variety of cheeses
Anchoas - anchovies
Boquerones - raw marinated anchovies.
Sepia - cuttlefish, usually grilled
Pulpa - octopus tentacle rings
Aceitunas - no bar exists without olives.
If a tapas bar is more adventurous, they will usually have an extended range of tapas. You could find variations on sardines, snails, various vegetable tapas, aubergines, squid, calamares, varieties of potatos at different recipes, prawns, eggs, and whatever else they invent.
The tapas are quite commonly enjoyed with wine. Valencia has little known, yet very impressive world of wine, and you can find out more about what's on offer on WinesOfValencia
Coming from outside it is easy to think that because tapas are so popular they must be a cheap staple. That really depends on where and what you eat. Some places are more generous with their portions than others. Quite often it can be cheaper to eat tapas if you have bread or a bocadillo to help. Tapas are also perfect for when you are not too sure if you want to eat much. Generally speaking, however, the price difference between a tapa and a full meal is insignificant - per unit of amount.
Is it enough?
It may seem like too much of a luxury if you are on a budget. However, don't underestimate them - the tapas are usually eaten with bread (a free supplement in many places) and that way every time you get surprised at feeling much more full than you expected when you first saw that little plate.
Where to eat them?
The tapas are generally available in all bars, even the nastiest looking ones. You will always see a few trays of standard tapas at the counter, even in a place that primarily serves cheap meals. However, there are also quite a few classy places that take tapas to the level of art, and where you can encounter more adventurous kinds as well as a postcard ambience to suit. The tapas will tend to be slightly more expensive, of course.
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