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Tapa or ración? Boquerones fritos or fried fresh anchovies

>> Saturday, September 19, 2009


What's the difference between tapa and ración? I guess a lot of people out of Spain already know that tapa is a small serving of food, served along with the drinks in most of Spanish bars. The price of the tapa is included in the price of the drink and it's something you don't need to ask for (well, most of the time) . In fact a tapa can be made with nearly anything, from some olives to fried chicken wings, as long as the amount is small. There are places though that are known for their enormous tapas, like the town of Granada, where you can make a substantial meal just by taking a tour through different bars.


A ración is a different thing. It's a bigger portion of food which is usually shared by several people and something you have to pay for separately. At a bar it is quite usual to have a whole meal just by piling up some raciones on the table, instead of a formal meal with first course, second course and so on.


After this cultural introduction to raise the level of the blog, ever so poor, one of my favorite ración or tapa has always been anchovies, either fried or in vinegar. Both are very typical all over Spain. For those who haven't tried them, the flavor of fresh anchovies has little to do with that of the more common salted and cured fish. It is a lot milder. Fried fresh anchovies were quite a staple at home when I was small, as it was inexpensive and tasty. Oily fish like anchovies, sardines, mackerel and tuna are very much appreciated in Spain. And now I give them to my kids, because this type of fish is supposed to be very healthy... until some brainy research demonstrates the opposite.

Boquerones fritos (makes 4 normal servings)

  • 1kg fresh anchovies, gutted and clean (I'm lucky that my fishmonger guts them for me)
  • All-purpose flour or chickpea flour for coating
  • Salt
  • Virgin olive oil for frying
  • A wedge of lemon for garnish

Wash the fish in cold water to get rid of the blood. I usually take off the central bone also and open them. Be careful to leave intact the final part of the bone, ending in the tail. It's normal practice to break the bone just before the tail and leave it so that it can be used to grab the fish for eating. Yes, it's typical to use your hands for eating fried anchovies... we're not civilized, I know. We still kill bulls for fun, don't we?


Let the fish drain the water for a while on a colander, salt and coat them with the flour. Chickpea flour is very commonly used for coating fish in Andalusia, either alone or mixed with plain flour. Pour oil in a pan till you have a level of 1cm more or less. Put the pan on high-medium heat and fry the fish in batches. I like them quite crispy, but that's very personal. You can lay them on a paper towel to soak some of the oil if you prefer. Drizzle with some lemon juice and enjoy with a beer or a glass of Spanish white wine, like fino or manzanilla... mmmm.

15 comentarios:

Diana Bauman September 21, 2009 at 1:52 PM  

Miriam, these look fabulous! Your pictures are always so beautiful!! My abuela always made my sisters and I pescaito frito while visiting, your picture brought back many memories :)

Jonny September 21, 2009 at 6:11 PM  

que rico! i love boquerones. love, love, love them! it's hard as hell to get fresh ones here in NYC, and we're reduced to stuffing ourselves with them whenever we're in Europe visiting my family. Last had them in Genoa, but we've eaten them in Barcelona and Cadiz also. I am very, very jealous and dearly wish Americans would understand the magical beauty of the anchovy. One day perhaps.

Southern Grace Gourmet September 21, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

These look so good, I would love to try them! I love sardines, but have only had them from a can

Miriam September 23, 2009 at 9:26 AM  

Diana: you're lucky to have had a real abuela! Unfortunately it's an endangered species...
Jonny: Is there any food you haven't tried? :-)
Angelia: fresh anchovies and sardines are a completely different thing from the canned stuff. Thanks!

Anna September 23, 2009 at 2:10 PM  

Wow... Miriam you have delicious tapas here, they all look so amazing.

Joan Nova September 23, 2009 at 3:00 PM  

Love these. And you're right, they are so totally different than the canned or jarred variety. I just recently bought chickpea flour and have begun to experiment. I like that your boquerones do not look at all greasy.

Tasty Eats At Home September 23, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

These look so lovely. I like the brined anchovies, and have never had fresh, but I can only imagine how delightful they must be. Maybe I need to hunt some down!

Andrés September 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM  

De estos boquerones fritos yo me pido una (o dos) raciones... :)))

Qué pinta... ¡Saludos!

TasteHongKong September 23, 2009 at 6:07 PM  

The anchovies still look fresh after cooked! Sadly i don't think we have fresh anchovies here.

Simply Life September 24, 2009 at 1:04 AM  

I LOVE tapas and you make them look so good!

Miriam September 24, 2009 at 11:44 AM  

Anna: thanks!
Joan: no, they aren't greasy at all
Tasty: sure you should!
Andrés: cuando quieras ;-)
TasteHK: mmm, pity
SimplyLife: thanks a lot!

we are never full September 24, 2009 at 9:52 PM  

well my husband jonny got to comment on this before me, i see! i'll second his comment - WE love boquerones... and i am also guilty of being a total fat american and ordering many raciones for me and jonny to eat while in spain. and, yes, we have been known to finish them all - just the two of us!

i wish we could get fresh anchovies easily here in the states.

Belinda @Zomppa September 25, 2009 at 9:48 PM  

What a fantastic way to make anchovies - I love them (on pizza too!) Maybe fried anchovies on pizza....

Miriam September 27, 2009 at 10:22 PM  

Amy: hahaha! You have good taste.
Belinda: why not?

Mindy April 10, 2010 at 3:32 PM  

I used to eat these all the time in Madrid... but I feel like they were always whole--head, tails, and bones--we just popped the entire little fish in our mouths.. Could I prepare them this way?

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