Good things in life often come in small packages. And London based Argentinian chef Mariano Ramon insists tapas is certainly one of them. “All weight watchers who love eating out once in a while would agree. You can tuck into as many as ten different dishes in a tapas spread without any guilt as it’s served in really small portions,” says Ramon who was recently in town to promote a tapas festival organised at Keya restaurant.
These itsy-bitsy bites that originated in Spain are so popular in the country that they led to the creation of a term ‘tapear’ that’s used by Spaniards when referring to eating out. Tapas could be a small piece of tuna, skewered items such as olives or meat, vegetables and cheese served with a with sauce. “Heading to a tapas bar to unwind is an important part of Spain’s culture. A popular story about the origin of tapas says that waiters in Spain used to cover a glass of sherry with a slice of ham and bread to avoid dust falling into it. And the word tapas comes from the Spanish verb tapar, which means ‘to cover’. So that’s how the dish got its name,” shares Ramon.
Ramon developed an affinity for these tiny morsels while he was working at Arzak, one of the most famous restaurants in Spain. “I experimented with countless varieties of tapas there. What I like best about tapas is that they are very versatile snack items — they team up best with a dry sherry but you could also enjoy them with different drinks such as wine, beer, whiskey, and most of the cocktails. The sweet tapas goes well with coffee,” says the chef. Another good thing about tapas is that they take don’t take much time to cook and you can do most of the preparation work in advance. In fact some tapas items such as cheese may not even require cooking. And that makes them best suited for a fun get-together you have planned with friends.
How about some fusion tapas? That’s what has caught the fancy of foodies in UK, says Ramon. “Tapas may be Spanish in origin but you would find lots of globalised versions of tapas. And those with an Indian twist have become very popular in London,” says the chef. Ramon uses a lot of Indian ingredients for making tapas such as deep fried coconut, tamarind, Kashmiri laal mirch, mint leaves, and fennel seeds. Even vanilla sourced from Kerala works well for rustling up a tapas,” says the chef.