31 August 2008

Portuguese Menu Readers Questions - Tapas and Petiscos: What´s the Difference?

Hello everyone.
Today I received a comment from a visitor named Victoria and I decided to answer the question this reader asked in a post. Portuguese Menu is an open blog, I appreciate interactivity and collaboration so I think it´s a good idea to have a section where I can answer any questions readers might have.

In my post about Chouriço Assado you can read: "Portuguese and the Spanish use the word "Tapas" to designate small meals. Tapas can include several ingredients, like cheese, ham, chouriço, fried fish, etc."


"I'm a big fan of chourico assada, but I thought the Portuguese word for the equivalent of the Spanish taps was petiscos. Am I close?"


Hi Victoria, thanks for your visit and comment. In fact you´re close. The word "Petiscos" and tapas are used in a similar way. I think the main difference is the way Portuguese use the word petisco. I´ll try to explain the difference.
Portuguese is a complicated language, not as much as chinese but difficult to understand in some things. Some obstacles are: We speak fast, we use "regionalismos" (words that are only used in some regions) and we give one word many different meanings, depending on situations.

Now, if you look in a Portuguese dictionary, the word "tapa" exists. It has different meanings, but none directly related to food. One of them defines "tapa" as an object that is used with a cork function, or tampon of a gun. If you look further you´ll find the verb "Tapar" that means: "to cover, to stop up, to obstruct, to fill up (...)".
When we´re talking about food the verb "Tapar" means to cover or fill our stomach.
Petiscos has a broad meaning too: "food that is very tasty, pitéu, guludice (from gula), ridiculous person, bread (from unknown origin)" just to name a few possible meanings. So, in Portuguese petisco can be any food, it means either eating between meals (verb: petiscar) or that the food is very tasty (um petisco).
If you go to south Spain and ask for a Tapa they will ask you: "Which tapa would you like?". When you look in the tapas menu you´ll see always the same things: Cheese, ham, presunto, different types of chouriço, prawns or other types of seafood, egg tortilha, and fried small fish, like "petinga", small sardines, jaquinzinhos, squids, cuttle-fish, pipis, etc.
I think tapa is a spanish word to specif refer this type of starters but once we are very close to Spain we use the word with the same meaning they do, specially where I live, in Algarve´s Barlavento zone.

As I mention in my first posts about Portugal, we have different costumes depending on the region you visit. It´s a bit difficult to generalize things.
Here where I live people say: "Let´s have a Tapa" to mean they will eat something that fills the stomach. Probably, we´ll have the same ingredients as Spanish, with lots of bread and butter included. So, if you come to a restaurant in Algarve and ask for a "Petisco" you´ll be asked the same thing: "What type of Petisco would you like?"

When we say "That fish was a petisco!" we mean the fish was very good, a speciality. I think when it refers to food the difference between Tapas and Petiscos isn´t much but the way we use the word petisco includes the idea the food is very good, a speciality while tapa is just cheese, ham, etc.
Hope this post helped understand the way we use this words.


Rachel said...

Wow and I thought English was a hard language!

Mizé said...

Hi Rachel.
English is a piece of cake compared to Portuguese. Check out a Portuguese dictionary and you´ll see what I mean.
Wish you all the best to your new course.