Try These Small Bites To Give World Tapas Day A Desi Twist
Image Credit: Freepik

Tapas has an interesting history. The word ‘tapas’ comes from the Spanish verb ‘tapar,’ which means ‘to cover.’  As is with the story of origin of many dishes, the story about how Tapas was first created, has multiple versions. It is believed that tapas originated as a slice of bread or meat used to cover sherry (a fortified wine made from white grapes)  glasses in Andalusia, the southernmost autonomous community in Peninsular Spain. Believe it or not, the taverns would use them to keep flies out. This practice eventually evolved into a variety of small dishes.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

One legend attributes the creation of tapas to King Alfonso X of the ancient region of Castile. It is said that while recovering from an illness, he drank wine with small snacks between meals. Once he had recovered, he announced that taverns could not serve wine unless accompanied by something to eat, to prevent people from getting drunk.

Video Credit: Patel Brothers

As per another legend, King Alfonso XIII, while visiting Cádiz (an ancient port city in the Andalucia region of southwestern Spain), was served a glass of sherry with a slice of ham placed on top to protect it from the beach sand. The king enjoyed it so much that he ordered another drink "with the cover" (con la tapa in Spanish), spreading the custom. 

Tapas began to be served in taverns in Andalusia. Initially, these included simple things like olives, almonds, or cheese. The tradition of offering tapas free with a drink soon became popular and it made guests hang out for longer periods at the taverns.

Post the Civil War, Spain saw economic hardship, and small, inexpensive tapas became an easy  way for people to eat out without spending much money. Over the years, tapas became more elaborate and varied, and included a wide range of ingredients and cooking techniques.

Today, tapas have evolved into a sophisticated culinary art. Many chefs have elevated tapas to gourmet status, in fine dining set ups. They experiment with traditional recipes and modern presentations.

Adding A Desi Twist

Tapas can range from simple olives and nuts to complex dishes like Gambas Al Ajillo (garlic shrimp), Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes), and Tortilla Española (Spanish omelette made with potatoes and onions.)

Creating Indian dishes in a tapas style can be a delightful fusion of two rich culinary traditions. Tapas, known for their small, shareable portions, can be perfectly adapted to Indian cuisine, which is also known for its diverse and flavourful dishes. Try these interesting versions.

Chaat Bites

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This can be made with small portions of beloved Indian chaat items such as papdi chaat or aloo tikki chaat. All you need, to make these, are simple easy to find ingredients such as papdi (crisp puris), boiled potatoes, chickpeas, yoghurt, tamarind chutney, mint chutney, spices, sev. Assemble mini plates or cups with a base of papdi or aloo tikki, topped with chickpeas, potatoes, yoghurt, chutneys, and garnished with sev and coriander.

Tandoori Skewers

Photo Credit: Freepik

Indian Tandoori dishes easily fit the Tapas mould. Skewered and grilled pieces of marinated meat or paneer can make for fun tapas. Any kind of meat, such as chicken, lamb, or even paneer,can be used to make these. You will also need tandoori masala, lemon juice, garlic, and ginger. Marinate the meat or paneer in a mixture of yoghurt and spices, skewer, and grill until cooked through. This can be served with mint chutney.

Mini Uttapam

A version of one of India’s favourite South Indian snacks, the Uttapam can be made into mini versions. The small, thick pancakes made from fermented rice and lentil batter is topped with vegetables. Make a batter from soaked and fermented rice and urad dal, pour small portions onto a hot tava, top with finely chopped vegetables such as  onions, tomatoes, green chilies, coriander and cook until it turns golden.

Prawn Balchao Canapés

The sweet, spicy and slightly tangy Goan prawn dish can easily be served Spanish style. Reimagine this as served on small pieces of bread or crackers. The Balchao has a  vinegary sauce. To make this, you will need prawns, Goan Balchao paste which is made with red chilies, vinegar, garlic and ginger, along with bread or crackers. Cook prawns in the spicy Balchao paste until well-coated and serve on toasted bread or crackers.

Stuffed Mini Peppers

Make small bell peppers stuffed with spiced potatoes or paneer. Indians have been making bharwan (stuffed dishes) for a long time. Use mini bell peppers, potatoes or paneer, spices such as cumin, coriander and  turmeric and cheese, to make this snack. Scoop the inside and make the mini bell peppers hollow. Fill the bell peppers with mashed masala potatoes or marinated paneer, and bake until peppers are tender. If you can’t find mini bell peppers, use a regular capsicum and cut it to make a small cup.

Masala Corn Cups

Photo Credit: Freepik

Serve spicy, tangy, boiled corn  in small, edible cups. Just like corn bhel or corn chaat, you will need corn kernels, chaat masala, lemon juice, butter, small edible cups (like mini papads or pastry cups) to make this dish. Sauté the corn in butter, season with chaat masala and lemon juice, and serve in mini cups.

Keema Sliders

Try these miniature versions of the popular Mumbai street food, Keema Pao. Assemble all the ingredients including ground meat which could be either lamb or chicken, spices such as garam masala, turmeric, cumin and the pao (small buns). Cook the minced meat with spices until well-cooked. Serve the Keema in small buns with a sprinkle of chopped onions and coriander.