We explore some of the favorite tapas, small dishes and appetizers from countries around the world.
Spain: Tapas – hot and cold appetizer dishes which vary greatly. Patatas bravas and patatas alioli are fried potatoes covered in a tasty sauce. Tortilla española, a piece of tortilla most traditionally made with eggs, potatoes and olive oil, but many also contain onion. Ham and if it is Iberian, even better (small dish of crunchy bread typical accompanies in Spain). Olives, usually served pickled. In fact, pickled items in general are commonly found in tapas. Calamari is breaded squid fried in olive oil and served hot. The list goes on….
China: Dim sum – dish of small steamed or fried savory dumplings containing various fillings, traditionally served with a light tea.
Japan: Izakaya – a type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small dishes and snacks ranging from croquettes to ikayaki (soy-marinated squid), served to accompany alcoholic drinks.
Philippines: Pica-pica – finger foods like skewered meats, small tempura bites and dynamite lumpia (green chili finger stuffed with cheese and sautéed ground pork, wrapped in lumpia wrapper and deep fried) eaten with alcoholic beverages.
Argentina: Milanesas – They can be made with chicken, veal, or soy meat and may be served on their own, in a sandwich, caballo style (with a fried egg on top), or Neapolitan style (with tomato sauce, ham, and cheese), served with wine, very much like the tapas of Spain.
Columbia: Picada or Picada Colombiana – dish prepared with pieces of steak, chicken, arepa, potato, yuca, morcilla, chorizo, and plantain. The ingredients are usually fried.
Venezuela: Arepas – A crispy, corn-based cross between flatbread and cake that’s either baked or fried and used as a base for sandwiches.
France: Hors d’oeuvres – Gougere is a savory puff pastry flavored with cheese – traditionally Gruyere, complements both beer and wine. Another popular item is Escargots a la Bourguignonne (snails in garlic-herb butter).
Greece: Pikilia – a variety mix of grilled or fried mezedakia (appetizers). You usually choose between fish or meat, or a mixture of both fish and meat cuts on the same platter, served with ouzo (an anise-flavoured aperitif).
Russia: Zakuski – a substantial Russian hors d’oeuvre item such as caviar sandwiches or vegetables with sour cream dip, all served with vodka.
Italy: Antipasti – typically include cured meats, olives, peperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, various cheeses (such as provolone or mozzarella), pickled meats, and vegetables in oil or vinegar.
The Netherlands: Voorgerechten – The ‘kroket’ and ‘Bitterballen’ are a deep fried roll with meat ragout inside, covered in breadcrumbs and can be ordered in almost every café and bar, because of its tasty combination with beer.
Scandinavia: Smörgåsbord – a collection of hot and cold plates, for example kroppkakor (potato dumplings filled with cured pork, onions and allspice) served with slices of dark bread and drunk with akvavit, a liquor that gets its distinctive flavour from spices and herbs, and the main spice should be caraway or dill.
Middle East/Arabic Countries: Meze – Kebabs are popular along side breads (such as pita) at the heart of a meze, paired with classic hummus topped with whole chickpeas and fried mushrooms, as well as dips like baba ghannouj—made from mashed grilled eggplant—and labneh—a tart yogurt-like cheese, served with an anise-based liquor like arak, or wine.
At the end of the day, cultures worldwide aren’t altogether different. It seems we all enjoy getting together with family and friends for a tasty meal and possibly some cocktails … and simply enjoy the company of others.