The Full Montadito: Topped Up Tapas

Sunday, January 29, 2012 12 comments

Tres Montaditos de Tangled

"Man does not live on bread alone." (Deuteronomy 8:3)

You can't argue with the Old Testament, which is why this woman knows well enough to pile on other good stuff, too.

Bread is inarguably a universal food found in nearly all parts of the world. If not made from grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, oatmeal and corn, then tubers like potato and cassava provide the flour power. Formed into baguettes, boules, braids, twists, rings, knots, rolls and flats, bread is baked in earthen pits, wood-fired hearths and electric stainless-steel ovens by home bakers and commercial food producers alike.

Bread nirvana at Circles Café, Shangri-La Manila
On its own, bread is fine nourishment, yet when a little extra is added, it turns into another state of being. For instance, plain toast is all well and good, but when slathered in butter, glazed with honey or mortared with peanut butter or hazelnut chocolate spread, it becomes a sweet treat for the tummy. Even better, bread can be transformed into a self-contained meal. Simply add a bit of meat here, some vegetables there, a dash of that seasoning and a dab of this condiment, and it becomes one of myriad alimentary aliases - sandwich, wrap, bánh mì, torta, muffaletta, panini, croque, bocadillo...

However, there are times when your appetite wants something... in between. What to do when you're struck by this hard-to-pin-down craving that hungrily straddles the pleasure of a small bite and the satiety of a full feast?

Mount Up...!

(Photo credit: Savesavour/Flickr)
...As in the Spanish verb montar ('to ride'), the root of the word montadito, a type of the popular bite-sized bar snacks in Spain collectively known as tapas, in which small slices of bread are topped, or 'mounted', with a variety of ingredients. Montaditos are essentially small open-faced sandwiches, although some consider a miniature version of the standard 2-slice sammie as an acceptable form. Also known as pintxo/pincho in the Basque region (meaning 'spike', as they are often skewered with toothpicks), these appetizers are countryside kin to canapés. But where those crustless hors d'oeuvres are elegant, manicured cocktail appetizers, montaditos are rough-edged, rustic finger food.

Long a part of the tapas lineup, the montadito is rapidly establishing itself as a stand-alone food concept, having recently been named among the 10 Trends for 2012 by consumer marketing firm and global trendspotter JWTIntelligence. Meanwhile, Spanish restaurant chain Cerverceria 100 Montaditos*, which has over 200 locations across Spain, France and Portugal, launched a New World invasion last year with its first American outlet in Miami, Florida. The small bites purveyor is thinking big with plans to open 4000 U.S. restaurants within the next five years (source:
*The chain subscribes to the mini-sandwich model of montadito, value-priced at $1.50 to $3 per order.


Fortunately for those of us not yet within the encroaching sphere of Cerverceria 100 Montaditos, this savory snack is only as far as the nearest Spanish restaurant, tapas bar or your own kitchen. With a few ingredients and some creativity, you can have a vicarious tapeo (tapas bar crawl) minus the crowds or the multiple bar tabs.

Montaditos menu board in Barcelona, Spain
(Photo credit: Marcos Esperón/Flickr)

It all starts with bread - ideally, a baguette. Why a baguette? It provides the perfect-sized base for montaditos, which are meant to be consumed in a couple of bites. It also stands up well to the sauces and oils of various toppings, soaking up the flavors without becoming soggy. Cut a nice crusty baguette into slices no more than 1/2" thick. The slices may be lightly toasted or grilled first, but do try to avoid an overly crisp base.

Next, add your toppings. For montaditos, pretty much any variety and preparation of vegetables, seafood, meats, cheeses and condiments that you can gather are suitable. Try to combine at least two ingredients with complementary flavors and textures, like the marvelous Montadito de Pan con Tomate, Chorizo y Huevos made by Yummy columnist and food blogger Joey of 80 Breakfasts.

Although Mr. Noodle and I are within walking distance of our favorite Spanish restaurant, we're content on occasion to put together a platter of montaditos on our own and enjoy them with a favorite bottle of fruity granacha-tempranillo at home. A recent selection:

Montadito de Longganisa con Queso Manchego

Inspired by the montaditos de sobrasada de mallorca served at Barcino Wine Restaurant and Bar in Metro Manila. The sausage is finely chopped, lightly fried then topped with melted Queso Manchego.

 Pain à l'ancienne 
Toppings: Garlicky, black pepper-y longganisa recado from Nueva Ecija, Manchego cheese and a garnish of micro-tatsoi.

Montadito de Alcachofa con Alioli

Bread: Plain baguette
Toppings: Alioli, a garlic and olive oil emulsion sauce (I used a jarred alioli made with egg), marinated artichoke hearts and romesco sauce (see recipe below)

Montadito con Sardinas y Romesco

Bread: Pain à l'ancienne
Toppings: Sardines in olive oil and romesco sauce garnished with micro-tatsoi.

Roughly Romesco Sauce

Romesco, originally from Northern Spain, is a piquant sauce made with nuts, roasted red peppers and olive oil, among other ingredients. It's best served at room temperature and is excellent when paired with seafood.

Being the spontaneous (i.e. unprepared) cook that I am, some substitutions were required - hence, it's roughly a traditional romesco sauce.


1-2 dried chiles such as guajillo, New Mexico red or other medium-heat chile
2 slices baguette, toasted
2 whole canned tomatoes
2 Tbsps nuts (your choice, just not peanuts! I used mix of almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios & cashews)
4 cloves whole garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsps red wine vinegar
Salt to taste

For milder heat in your sauce, cut open the chiles and remove the stem, seeds and inner pith. Soak in water for 30 minutes or until softened.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients, except salt, and give it a good whir until the sauce is relatively thick and smooth. Add salt to taste. It may be refrigerated for up to one week but is best served at room temperature.

Montadito de 'Pinas

Another variation of the montadito de sobrasada de mallorca, this one also takes the form of the more sandwich-like variety of montadito and is made with fully Filipino goodness.

Bread: Pan de Rizal, tiny rolls about the size of an extra-large egg
Fillings: Longganisa Vigan, a garlicky sausage with a hint of yellowish hue, from the province of Ilocos Sur; and kesong puti, or white cheese, made from fresh carabao (water buffalo) milk.

What would you put on your montadito?

¡Buen Provecho!


  • Daily Spud said...

    Romesco sauce, manchego cheese, tapas... I'm drooling & dreaming of Spain! As to what I would put on my montaditos? I'm sure I could find some way to include potatoes (maybe a few crisps for salt & crunch) along with my favourite cracker topping of mature cheddar, a scrape of mayonnaise and sweet onion pickles. Now I really must go and get me some baguette :)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Ooooh - how about skordalia, the Greek garlic & potato dip? Now, you're the one giving me all sorts of ideas for Spud-ditos! Our fave Spanish restaurant that I mentioned is practically across the street and we'd eat there every day, if possible. Otherwise, I'm also dreaming of a trip to Spain one day. I'll let you know when I start making plans -- we can meet up over tapas and tempranillo! 8-D

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Kat - Thanks! They're perfect for those times when you want something filling but not a full-blown meal. 8-)

    Hornsfan - I'm always craving tapas, so montaditos are perfect for the simple fact that you can use almost anything on top! 8-)

    Catherine - Thank you so much! They didn't last very long after the photos were taken. ;-)

    Rochelle - Thank you! I found the mini-Filipino flags in a box of 'flag' toothpicks at Landmark grocery store in Makati that also featured US, Brit and Japanese emblems. I finally had a great excuse to use them! 8-)

  • Lori said...

    I love pasta and rice, but I consider bread the basis of all things good. I like it way too much for my own good. It fascinates me that something so simple can turn into something so delicious. Speaking of delicious these tapas are amazing.

  • Betty Ann said...

    What great ideas for Tapas! I'm especially blown away by the machego-chorizo combination. I can just see my sons wolfing these down...that said, I can't wait to try this & the rest of your "Tapas" recipes. It was wonderful to meet up in person, Tracey! Truly made my Manila visit filled with many nice friendship memories!

  • Dee said...

    Wow, the tapas aspect sounds delicious. With all those flavors & choices I have no idea how you decide what to eat. I'd love to try a montadito. Sounds & looks delicious!

  • ChichaJo said...

    I love tapas and tapas-style eating! And of course, montaditos (tapas that involve can I resist??) :) What a fantastic selection you've come up with here!

    Thanks for the link back! :)


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