Spanish food are known for small dishes. Intense flavours. LOTS of chatting, laughing, and drinking. The typical scenes you see every corner you turn in a Spanish restaurant, or ‘Tapas’ – to speak in their language.
Spanish people LOVE food – and they love even more to take their own sweet time with it, chewing and appreciating the different flavours and varied textures. They don’t just eat. They chat and laugh, and drink; chat and laugh some more, then drink and take a bite, and chat and laugh again.
Why the Small-dishes?
They are the practitioners of ‘eat small but frequent’ so they rightly snack in between meals. I say rightly because they don’t snack with just a bag of Doritos or Lays. They snack with bite-sized DISHES or ‘mini-meals’ — hence the ‘tapas’ is their food culture.
Are there only small-dishes?
Since Spanish people also enjoy a good company while savouring the pleasures of food, group sharing of food is part of their culture too. Spanish restaurants in Singapore do serve foods in enormous portions that are obviously for large groups.
What are some top dishes found in Spanish Restaurants?
The most known and appreciated is this giant pan of yellow fried rice rained with bits of meat, seafood and vegetables. Interestingly, the name is derived from the circular flat pan in which it is cooked – paellera. Even the more interesting fact is that you eat the rice and everything directly from the paellera.
This dish is a firework of colours, flavours and textures. The usual ingredients are chicken, pork or rabbit – in the meat department; mussels, prawns, clams, crayfish and squid – in the seafood department; tomatoes, peas and pimentos – Spanish cherry peppers – for vegetables; onion, garlic, herbs and saffron for the spice and seasoning.
2. Tortilla de patatas
Another symbolic dish of Spanish cuisine is this ‘Spanish omelette’. Not to be mistaken as the small prata-like tortillas, this Spanish omelette looks like a cake or a cake-sized doughnut, which is not surprising since ‘Tortilla’ means ‘little cake’. It is made out of eggs and potato with the light seasoning of salt, and served in slices under room temperature.
A good tortilla de patatas is created from quality olive oil, well-beaten eggs, a ripe grasp of the cooking time for each ingredient, and confident flipping of the large tortilla. Classically enjoyed with just eggs and potato, and later with caramelized onions, a modern tortilla de patatas is appreciated with tuna, eggplants, pimentos, dried tomatoes, arugula and parmesan.
As food lovers, Spanish people will never miss a good meatball dish. Their rendition – bite-sized meatballs in a jacuzzi of thick luscious tomato-based gravy. Not to be confused with the Mexican meatball with larger balls in more watery soup.
The classic meatballs are carved from minced pork and chorizo – flavoured pork and pork fat mix, which can be spicy or sweet depending on the primenton (smoked paprika) to enhance the flavour of the meatballs.
A good albondigas has the feisty redness of fresh tomatoes evenly covering the chocolatey brown of ripe-ly cooked minced pork. Hence you get a mouthful of intense peppery sweet-and-sour-nesses and salty chewiness.
‘Crumbs’ is what it means, and the point of this dish is the breadcrumbs. So we have moistened bread lightly-fried in garlic, paprika and olive oil. It tastes like peppery and smoky garlic bread.
The later versions have more colours, textures and flavours with adding the spinach, chorizo, bacon and eggs. Being moistened allows the breadcrumbs to soak up the juices of the different ingredients and spices. Rich in taste at every bite.
Originally taken during winter, this easy-to-make dish has become the Spanish people’s favourite snack to take at any time.
Finally a fish dish, and for a good reason. Spanish people are meat lovers so to give them up on the Catholic tradition of no-meat-only-fish Fridays, they created the bacalao or ‘salted cod’.
This time we have the ‘salted cod’ fish soaked in water for 1 to 2 days to drain out the salt. Then cook it in whichever sauce you like – tomato, paprika, green peppers and onions (pisto), garlic and olive oi (pil pil).
The drained cod captures the essence of each sauce like a blank canvas, and you get them all in the midst of fresh oceanic taste.
6. Croquetas de Jamón
It is a croquette named after its highlight ingredient, the Spanish dry-cured ham Jamón. A good croquetas has a golden brown exterior, a loose crunch on the surface and a mushy core that is smooth and creamy with the salty notes of Jamón.
The dish starts with the mashy filling, which is a set mixture of the milk, flour and butter sauce (bechamel sauce), chicken broth and Jamón bits cooked to smoothness and thickness, spiced with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The mash is shaped, covered with breadcrumbs and lathered with raw egg, then fried in olive oil.
Not to be mistaken as the croquettes from France, there are no potatoes in the mashy filling of croquetas de Jamón.
7. Patatas bravas
Here is where the potatoes lie.
This dish is literally chunky fries with sauce. The name – ‘brave potatoes’ – is reasonable since we have the main ingredient braving through the chopping and deep-frying in hot oil. And because it is just fried potatoes, there are numerous versions of this dish.
The most preferred and authentic version is lightly seasoned with salt and accompanied with thick spicy mayo-like alioli and a slab of the garlic-infused mayonnaise. Some places use bravas sauce instead – made from tomatoes, sweet paprika and chilli powder.
Whatever the sauce, the patatas bravas would definitely invite a good gulp of cooling beer.
8. Leche Frita
I have to add this to the list – a Spanish dessert, the most interesting one I’ve come across.
It’s ‘fried milk’. You didn’t hear me wrong. Fried. Milk. This comes from northern Spain, regarded as a Spanish sweet, and usually served hot or cold.
The milk to be fried is a sweet tight milk-pudding, which is then coated with flour and egg, and fried. A good leche frita has a soft crunch at the first bite and then a mouthful of chewy sweet fragrance from the pudding.
The modern leche frita is accompanied with ice cream or just as it is, with a drizzle of ground cinnamon.
You can try some of these tapas in the following Spanish restaurants:
7 Best Spanish Restaurants in Singapore to Satisfy Your Craving
It’s all about the food. Just the food. And fun!
Located at Hong Kong Street, this Spanish restaurant brings ‘FINE FUN FOOD from Barcelona’ through Michelin Star Chef Nandu Jubany and his teammates, local connoisseurs of Spanish food. They invite you into a refined space of music and laughter, amidst the clanking cheers and bustles from the open kitchen, where the magic happens.
Their menu had an update. It includes the classics like the Ibérico (black Iberian pig) Ham Croquetas, Patatas Bravas ‘FOC Style’ and Paella; and the interesting Sea Urchin Toast, Roasted Pork Belly with Glazed Alaskan King Crab and Octopus Galician Style. They have five dessert choices, including the popular Spanish Basque Cheesecake.
They also serve wine and alcohol, and Spanish ‘light bites’ in the afternoons of late weekdays, such as the Gilda Skewer (pepper, olive and anchovy skewers), fresh oysters and Padrón peppers.
The tapas and desserts are at $2.50 to $30 with the premium ones $32 to $68. Its welcoming and heartwarming customer service gives a joyful Barcelona dining experience.
|Address||40 Hongkong St, Singapore 059679|
Tapas Club Orchard Central
Step into an authentic Spanish restaurant setting to savour a wide range of tapas. Here, they have more of the classic ones like Patatas bravas, Ham croquetas, five choices of Paellas and Octopus Galician Style.
One notable thing about this place – it carries ‘Green Tapas’ to satisfy the meatless cravings. The interesting menu comes with the Eggplant Chips with Honey, Beetroot Hummus and – of course – the Padrón peppers.
Their dessert choices include the favourites, such as the Lemon Tart with Nougat, Creme Brulee and Chocolate Coulant with Vanilla Ice Cream, all at $9. They also serve a good selection of beverages, including the Spanish beer and wine (2nd bottle at a discounted price).
Many of its new customers become fans of this place due to the broad array of food selections, the luscious flavours, the affordable price range of $15 to $29 and the consistently good customer service.
|Address||181 Orchard Road, #02-13 Orchard Central, 238896|
Nestled within Shaw Centre, this provider of ‘Spanish tapas and wine’ offers an extensive menu in a homely setting of the Spanish taste.
Headed by a local chef, this place offers Spanish flavours tuned for the local taste buds so fussy eaters wouldn’t have to worry here. They have a good range of the Spanish classics in cold and warm – paella (3 choices including a premium one with lobster), croquetas de Jamón, patatas bravas and bacalao a ala parrilla.
There is also a wide range of other creations – the Tomate Momotaro Con Vinagrey Y Bottarga (sliced Momotaro tomato with 50-year sherry vinegar, Arbequina extra virgin olive oil and shaved salted, cured fish roe – the bottarga); and the Super-Conchinillo Confit (suckling pig confit with Calenda peaches and sherry vinegar).
The wide array of foods also include three choices of fresh bread, six choices of desserts and five picks of sides. Its wine list is guaranteed to satisfy your alcoholic craving.
However, this place is more of the expensive end with tapas starting from $15 to $36.
|Address||1 Scotts Rd, #02 – 10 / 11, Singapore 228208|
Named after their concept of ‘pairing a Tapas Bar with a Fine Dining space’, this Spanish restaurant gives you the best of both worlds – a joyful, exciting food experience in a posh carefree setting.
The bar allows food sampling and wine tasting – in case you are not sure what to order. The tasting menu is $79 for Six tapas dishes and $95 for Eight, with some offers of wine.
The fine-dining space then allows an excellent Spanish meal at $7 to $38, with your loved ones. It even accommodates large groups.
They serve a good range of the Spanish classics, including the berenjenas con miel (eggplant chips in organic honey and pine nuts) and the tartar de buey (beef tartar with bone marrow and caviar). The creations include the Higado de pato – grilled foie grass and scallops in sherry vinegar sauce; and the Cordero – char-grilled lamb chops with goat cheese, figs and pine nuts.
To complete your meal, they have eight dessert choices, from churros to the traditional toasted ‘Catalan’ cream custard, and a good selection of Spanish wines.
|Address||20 Craig Rd, #01-02 Craig Place, Singapore 089692|
OLA Cocina Del Mar
Serving at Tower 3 of Marina Bay Financial Centre, this Spanish restaurant bears a carefree setting and supply flavours true to its roots. It’s like having a meal of great food prepared by a friend.
You can find the usual tapas dishes, with a fresh twist in their ingredients and flavours. There are the Gazpacho (tomato soup) with Raspberry vinegar; Gambas (prawns in garlic oil and chilli) with potato puree; and Grilled Octopus with light hummus.
One of their highlights and distinctions – the Ceviche; a salad of fresh raw fish dipped in acidic juices. Kind of like the Japanese sashimi minus the wasabi and soy sauce. They are three choices – the classic one (Market Fish with White Tiger’s Milk and sweet potato); the Ceviche Verde (an oceanic gathering in jalapeno, lime and corn tortilla chips); and the Ceviche Tono (Market Fish and fried calamari with smoked Aji Amarilla, sweet potato puree and Tiger’s Milk).
The limiting tapas selection ($9 to $48) is complemented with an equally luscious mains menu so you are guaranteed a filling meal with well-matched cocktails and wine, and their memorable dessert choices.
|Address||12 Marina Boulevard, Tower 3, #01 – 05 / 06 Marina Bay Financial Centre, 018982|
This Tapas restaurant at Duxton Hill serves the modern flavours to people with bustling routines. The portions are decent. Their selection of Spanish and International tapas is alluring.
There are 13 known tapas choices – from marinated olives ($9) to baked mushroom with tetilla cheese ($15); 6 popular seafood picks such as the Very Mediterranean grilled cuttlefish and Codfish with caviar cream and veg, from $13 to $28; and 8 meat selections of Albondigas, Beef quesadilla (warm tortillas with melted cheese), Charred Angus ribeye cubes with potato and other favourite classics, at $14 to $21.
They also have dishes for large group sharing – from truffle fries with parmesan cheese to Mexican nachos with beef, cheese, salsa and guacamole to cheese and meat platters—all at $16 to $40 in generous sizes that liven your gathering.
Not missing a beat of the complementing alcoholic beverages and mocktails, and 4 of the local favourite Spanish desserts, they deliver a satisfying meal. The price is worth at least a try.
|Address||21 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089604|
Alma by Juan Amador
A One-Michelin-Starred restaurant in the heart of Goodwood Park Hotel Orchard Road, this place is meticulous and precise with its food and drinks selections – everything must blend into a festival of the old and new flavours.
This place is a definite visit for fine-dine lovers. You get a whiff of Spanish and everything nice from around the world. Their menu is unlike all the other that indicated earlier in the list. The menu splits into lunch and dinner, and your choice of a 3-course or 4-course meal.
To give you some hints of what to expect, here is a brief overview:
For lunch, they have starters like the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup (Spanish cheese Manchego with cepes and almonds); and the Kanpachi Brandade (crab and beetroot in lemon broth).
The mains include specially crafted dishes like the ‘Iberian’ Pork Jowl (Cevennes onion with Manjimup winter black truffle and ham broth); the ‘Kuhlbarra’ Barramundi (Bouillabaisse with white kimchi and potato).
There are two picks of desserts with unexpected ingredients like the Vanilla Creme – meringue with cherries and Sake Lees.
The dinner menu has added creations like the Hungarian Goose (Jus Gras with Kabocha and Japanese roots Gobo); and the ‘Chamberts’ Cherry – Spanish creme Catalan with raspberry and beetroot.
Though the fusion tastes overpower the authentic Spanish flavours, the creativity undoubtedly oozes the Spanish charm from the main chef who is of Spanish descent.
|Address||22 Scotts Rd, Singapore 228221|