Waiter, some bravas!
‘Patatas bravas’ are one of the most traditional and popular tapas outside of Spain. The reason for such success lies in the potatoes, cut into small irregular pieces and then fried in olive oil until they are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, but above all in the sauce that accompanies them: salsa brava, with as many versions as there are cooks.
With onion, flour, sauce and red pepper, but without tomato; with tomato sauce and chilli, or; even in its less orthodox version, with mayonnaise, ketchup and Tabasco, the fact is that salsa brava is, first of all, a hot sauce. Hence its name and also its origin: the spicier the potatoes, the more beer was needed to accompany them and the higher the profits for the bartenders. The ‘patatas bravas’ being hot is so important that, depending to the (rising) degree, they are called ‘mansas’, ‘bravas’, ‘miuras’ and ‘taladros’.
The salsa brava is sometimes mixed with aioli sauce (a sauce made of garlic and olive oil that gives rise to another classic of Spanish tapas, aioli potatoes) - but in this case it would be more correct to speak of "mixed" potatoes.
There is no agreement on the place of birth of this dish. Some say the bravas were invented and patented in 1960 in the Casa Pellico, in Calle Toledo, which no longer exists.
Furthermore, the three "Las Bravas" establishments in the Huertas neighbourhood, claimed to be the father of the true salsa brava. The recipe, top secret of course, was patented in 1960 under number 357.942 and was invented in the premises located in Callejón del Gato that the Spanish playwright, Ramon del Valle-Inclan, cites in his book Luces de Bohemia.
But patatas bravas are not the exclusive prerogative of the capital. In Barcelona, the most famous are those of the Bar Tomás, to which they have dedicated a book. Both in taste and price, these are some of the most sought-after tapas in Spain.
This tapa has undergone successful reinterpretations by renowned Spanish chefs in recent years, such Sergi Arola, whose already legendary and widely imitated patatas bravas are small cylinders of potato stuffed with tomato-based spicy sauce, and covered with aioli sauce. In the version of another great Spanish chef Paco Roncero, the bravas are small roast potatoes served with some salsa brava and aioli on top. This great classic of Spanish tapas reinvents itself continuously.
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