What are the differences and similaries between Chinese dim-sum and Spanish Tapas? Let's see what our contributors said ...
By Cheng Chang and Sherry Kuei-Chan
I have lived in Spain for more than ten years and therefore am familiar with Spanish Tapas. Customarily, especially before dinner, Spaniards would start with an aperitif, followed by white wine, red wine, beer and in the South of Spain, a foreign ‘vino fino’ is also drunk to accompany Tapas. Drinking alcohol alone is rather monotonous, thus being a nation that knows how to enjoy life, they would savour it with some Tapas. In Spanish, ‘Tapas’ means ‘small plate’. Common Tapas include cheese, ham, sausage, fish, squid, octopus, green peppers, cucumber, braised beef, roast leg of pork, shrimps and many more delicacies. Including these tapas and the ones specially prepared by restaurants and bars, they are in abundance. In Andalucia, in the South of Spain, fine dining involves going to several different bars for a variety of tapas before feasting in the restaurant. Normal dinner hours range between 9pm to 11pm due to the tapas eating tradition. If the Spaniards exercise in the morning, like swimming in the sea, golf or if they have an appointment, they will also have some tapas, drink some beer, vino fino, and white or red wine before lunch. Spaniards are very knowledgeable about wine. For instance if they have seafood, they will complement it with either white or vino fino and if they are eating beef, poultry or other meat, they consume red wine. If they are having Chinese cuisine, they will select rose wine. In Europe, Spaniards are well-known for being spendthrift, they are very generous and sociable, unlike English and North Europeans who are less prone to do so.
I arrived in Spain in 1959 and had nearly travelled through the whole country, ranging from East to West, South to North. The north of Spain borders with France, thus their cuisine includes some French influence. The west is next to Portugal, the east by the Mediterranean, therefore one can discover many varieties of food, like seafood, salad, vegetables, types of fish, including the famous Paella that originated from Valencia. Andalucia is close to the Atlantic and is blessed with good weather and fertile plain but no hills and their authentic attractions include Bull fighting and Flamenco dancing. Coto de Doñana, the national park is situated in the south of Spain and is one of the most well preserved virgin forests in Europe. Wild boars, elk, and several thousand species of birds are the dwellers in these forests.
Chinese dim-sum and Spanish tapas are comparable, the only difference is that dim-sum can be treated as a main meal. The dim-sum that is eaten in the morning can also be consumed for lunch as well as for afternoon tea. More often than not, dim-sum can be eaten up to 4pm in the restaurants. The reason is solely for restaurants to sustain their business, if the customers treated dim-sum as dinner, then it would certainly affect their profit, therefore after 4.30pm, no dim-sum will be served. On the contrary, the Spanish tapas are used to whet the appetite, to tantalise the taste buds, therefore there is no time limit and can be eaten any time of the day. Dim sums are served in bigger portions than tapas, for instance a portion of steamed bread comes in a plate of 3 to 4 pieces, or 6 to 7 for prawn dumplings, however the quantity of tapas is much smaller in comparison. Guangdong is the birth place of dim-sum culture and since then has gained popularity. Eating dim-sum in Shanghai or Beijing is not as widespread as in England and Hong Kong but in recent years they have followed trend except that it is considered as a main meal rather than a snack. From the south to the north, the general type of snacks eaten in China to complement alcohol are normally a plate of peanuts, dried beancurd, cucumber, pickles and mustard, they are not quite as lavish as the Guangdong dim-sum. A famous author once commented that dried beancurd when eaten together with peanuts will produce a similar taste to ham.
I adore Spanish tapas. Each occasion I go to the South, I will not miss the opportunity of enjoying seafood at Sanluca in Jerez. Sanluca is renowned for its seafood, thus multiplicity of seafood restaurants are lined along the seafront. What can one ask for, not only can one find reasonably priced, scrumptious seafood of different fascinating varieties, it is also picturesque! My favourite dishes include delicious fresh life king prawns cooked in sea water, they are so tender and fresh and my other beloved one is the mouth-watering crispy, delicious fish pancake. In England I love dim-sum and tea, it is cheap and tasty and also an ideal way to lose weight. What a fascination it is to discover that Chinese cuisine has such similarity with an European one.
Tapas - Small plate.
Coto de Doñana - a famous resort in southern Spain, in Andalucia.
Tea - Guangdong dim-sum served with tea.
By Lucia Law:-
The more you learn about other cultures, the more you realise that we are "more alike than different". This certainly applies to food and a good example is tapas and dim sum.
The word "tapas" comes from the Spanish verb "tapar" which means to cover up. They say that the tapas tradition began when king Alfonso X of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or "tapa".
Others say that the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips to prevent flies from falling inside the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales.The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.
Tapas have evolved through Spanish history by incorporating ingredients and influences from many different cultures and. Spain was invaded by the Romans, who introduced the olive. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The discovery of the New World brought the introduction of tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers, corn and potatoes.
The ingredients that are present in tapas and dim sum are prawns, pork dishes, tripes, peppers.
The similarities are that you eat small bites of food that you enjoy while chatting to friends and family. Which bring us to what I have discovered are the foundations of Spanish and Chinese cultures: family, friends and food. Getting together with those you love to celebrate food, or being together it does not matter which one comes first.