Have you ever wondered …
- how many tapas you should order?
- what “platos principales/main dishes” are doing on a tapas menu?
- if there is a specific order you are supposed to follow?
- if you did something wrong if you are still hungry after all tapas had been served?
In four basic tips, we summarize for you the must-knows.
Let’s get started!
1) How many tapas shall we order?
Obviously, it depends a lot on how many people you are on the table, the size of portions and type of dishes (a salad, carbohydrates, meat/fish). However, in general, the following formula works quite well: two to three tapas per person. If you are more than four people, you can consider ordering certain dishes twice.
2) Understand the tapas menu
A tapas menu usually follows this order:
‘Entrantes’ – ‘Appetizers’
‘Para compartir’ – ‘To Share
‘Platos principales’ – ‘Main dishes’’
‘Postre’ – ‘Dessert’
Let’s say, you are a group of two …
… you’d start with one or two entrantes - usually cold, but sometimes hot dishes that are quickly served, often together with the first round of drinks. The typical entrantes are olives, pan con tomate (toasted bread with fresh squeezed tomato and olive oil), Spanish ham, a cheese platter or some marinated or pickled seafood delicacies.
Next, you get two to three dishes ‘para compartir’ – ‘to Share’. These are the ‘real’ tapas: small portions of a certain dish with the idea to share them. We recommend to take advantage of this “sharing” and order as many different plates as possible. Combine some fresh plates such as salads with side dishes that fill you (some carbohydrates such as patatas bravas, typical Catalan potatoes) and some of the typical fried plates, such as eggplants with honey or squids.
Some plates on a tapas menu are considered as “platos principales”, meaning a full main course plate. Be careful, those are also meant to be shared! They usually include fish or meat with only little vegetables. A common misconception is that people ordering a main dish are disappointed of its size as they expect a bigger plate. We recommend: Get one or two “platos principales” to highlight the end of a nice tapas dinner.
Last, but not least - desserts! This is our favorite part. Sharing is caring - finish your dinner with a good crema catalana, some dark chocolate (mousse) with olive oil and salt or a cheese cake.
3) There is enough for everybody on the table
If you are ordering two to three tapas per person, trust that this will be enough for every body. Don’t be afraid that others eat more than you or that they take away food from you - remember, they are your family members and friends and everybody only wants the best for each other :-) Common sense applied, every body takes his/her share of the plate. For example, if there are four croquettes on the plate and you are four people on the table - then every body gets one croquette. Easy-peasy :-) In doubt, talk to your family friends! Ask who prefers which type of tapas, who wants to take the last bit, and so on ...
4) Listen to your stomach
In most countries, people usually get a full plate of food for dinner, i.e. one plate with a certain amount of food that is considered to fill you sufficiently. We are used to see that full plate in front of us and our minds are able to estimate quickly if this is enough for us or not.
When it comes to tapas, things change. As you fill your plate constantly with small portions of food and eat continuously for a longer time, it is almost impossible to estimate if the amount of food was enough to be full or not. Our advice: listen to your stomach and feel if you still need more.
If you have troubles with this strategy, you can also fill your plate with small portions of the tapas on the table and, this way, at least get the feeling of the “full plate of food”. Like this you get a better idea of how much you had and how much you might still want or need.
In general, it is always helpful to talk to the waiter about how many dishes he or she would recommend (usually they are quite honest, but we still recommend to order a little less from what they recommend and in any case you can order more later if you are still hungry).