**MASTICATION HIGHLIGHT ALERT**
I have spent the last week in the Basque countryside of northern Spain (namely Pamplona, San Sebastian & Bilbao) and have well & truly stumbled upon the traditional style of bar snacks known as pinchos (which is literally Spanish for thorn or spike) or pintxo (Basque name). They're called pinchos because many of them have a pincho, typically a toothpick —or a skewer for the larger varieties— through them.
Walk into any bar and you will find the bartop covered with plates and plates of bite-sized parcels of deliciousness. All you need to do is ask the barkeep for ‘una plata por favour’ and then deliberate about which ones to sample.
PLEASE NOTE: These photos really do not do the expansive varieties of these scrumptious delights any justice. I recommend booking yourself a ticket to Spain ASAP to get a full understanding of how amazing pinchos are!
Pinchos are usually eaten as an appetizer, accompanied by a small glass of local rosé wine (‘una rosadao por favour’) or beer (‘una cana por favour’). See how fluent I have become in Spanish?!
Pinchos are eaten in bars or taverns as a small snack while hanging out with friends or relatives; thus, they have a strong socializing component, and they are usually regarded as a cornerstone of Basque Culture and Society. They are related to tapas, the main difference being that pinchos are usually larger, served in individual portions and always ordered and paid for independently from the drinks. On the other hand, tapas are usually served along with the drinks and included in their price. In addition, tapas are served on a small dish, while pinchos are generally consist of small slices of bread upon which an ingredient or mixture of ingredients is placed and fastened with a toothpick. Similar to Morocco, presentation is key!
Almost any ingredient can be put on the bread, but those most commonly found in the Basque Country include fish such as hake, cod, anchovy, or baby eels; tortilla de patatas; prawns; squid/octopus; stuffed peppers; and croquettes.
A big fat plate of pulpo (octopus)
However, pinchos can be very sophisticated, sometimes consisting of very elaborate (and sometimes expensive) fish, seafood, or meats – many of which are ordered raw, then cooked and delivered ever-so-elegantly on the plate.
The humble prawn, interspersed with bacon.
Oh no it isn't? Oh yes it is. Frogs legs. Crispy, mmm!
Some form of deep fried pastry with asparagus.
From left to right: sardines with finely chopped peppers on bread, jamon on bread with fried zucchini underneath, topped with grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon, prawns wrapped in light pastry with grilled peppers and fresh lime to boot. What a plate!
As said before, pinchos are used as an excuse for socializing. Typically, a group of friends will go from one tavern to another, drinking small glasses of wine or beer and eating pinchos. Which of course we did. To purely fit in with the crowd of course!
So now it's off to the south I go, to the Andalusia region for a few weeks to divulge in some tapas, tapas, tapas and hopefully authentic paella by the time I reach Valencia.