As Seville competes for the World Capital of Tapas, a nod which would give the city another UNESCO World Heritage mention, restaurants and tapas bars around the city are adapting to an eating culture that is evolving towards gastrobar-meets-down home atmosphere. Seville’s tapas culture is a major city attraction.
Many stories about its origins exist, but the practice is universal: bar patrons hop from one bar to another, sampling small plates of food. These can encompass hot dishes or cold, and can be meat, fish, vegetables or anything in between. While Spanish cuisine is considered important, Basque and Catalàn tend to be the heavy hitters in this category.
What sets Seville apart is the participation, making every day special enough to eat out. Tapas can take on so many different forms, making it impossible to get a real taste for Spanish food in a quick trip. Here are five-star dishes that will give you a starter tutorial in Spanish gastronomy:
Pulpo a la Feira
What it is: Boiled octopus served over boiled potatoes, with drizzled olive oil and sweet paprika.
Where it’s from: Typically eaten in the northern region of Galicia, popular varieties include al horno (baked) or a la plancha (grilled).
Where to get it in Seville: Casa Miró is perhaps one of the most famous Galician style restaurants in Seville, but try the pulpo at La Azotea (C/Jesús del Gran Poder, 31), served over mashed potatoes with a mozarabe sauce.
Goes perfectly with: pimientos del padrón, a sometimes-spicy-sometimes-not flash-seared green pepper.
What it is: A thick, cold soup made with tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar. Often served with chopped bits of ham and boiled egg.
Where it’s from: This dish is one of the most typical in Córdoba and is a thicker, sweeter version of gazpacho.
Where to get it in Seville: Salmorejo is a staple in most well-established bars in Seville, though not all of it is homemade. It’s pretty good at Bodegas la Pitarra, especially when dipped in even more bread!
Goes perfectly with: Fried eggplant, a ham and cheese mini-sandwich, Córdoba’s other famous dish, the flamenquín.
What it is: A rice dish that’s often made with seafood, meat and vegetables.
Where it’s from: Believed to have been created in the Albufera region of Valencia, paella is a common dish on the Mediterranean Coast and at barbeques (I mean it!). Rice is a common crop is Spain, and the availability of cheap flights to this region, like from Belfast to Alicante, make it an easy weekend trip.
Where to get it in Seville: On Sundays, La Cocina del Dr. x (Evangelista, 36, Triana) serves rice or paella. If you’re willing to go a bit further out, the duo from L’Albufera in Los Bermejales (Avda. de Europa, 19) cooks their rice to perfection and even serves it to you from the flat, cast-iron dish. Paella takes a while to make and is ordered by the person, so allot enough time or call ahead .
Goes great with: itself. Since paella is a dish that encompasses the major food groups, just keep digging in.
What it is: a hearty sandwich stacked high with a pork sirloin or chicken breast, tomato, a slice of ham and a fried green pepper between two hunks of bread.
Where it’s from: This is the Andalusian of fast food. It’s especially common in Seville (I only wish my host mom in Valladolid packed these for me instead of mortadella sandwiches!).
Where to get it in Seville: I’ve found that the biggest and best Serranitos come from the roadside bars in small towns. Many bars in the city serve mini versions of the sandwich for a taste.
Goes perfectly with: A cold beer. It’s hearty, so you’ll need something to wash it down!
What it is: This list would not be complete without perhaps the most Spanish dish of them all – the venerable Potato Omelette. As simple as eggs, potatoes and onions, the dish can be tricky to master (especialy when you have to flip it and cook the other side!).
Where it’s from: This is perhaps the only Spanish dish common throughout the entire country.
Where to get it in Seville: Some like it cooked, some like the eggs runny, but I love the tortilla from Bodeguita A. Romero, served with mayonnaise (Calle Gamazo, 16).
Goes perfectly with: Just about anything. It’s actually eaten for breakfast in Madrid!
In homage to a city where the tapeo culture trumps even bullfighting and flamenco (read: it’s accessible and likeable to everyone), I’m starting a weekly Tapas Thursday section that will feature different small plates and where to find them in Seville. Hungry? Read on…
What’s your favorite Spanish dish? What tapas would you like to see promoted on Sunshine and Siestas? Feel free to upload pictures of dishes to Sunshine and Siestas’s Facebook page!