>> 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)
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.