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Basque pinchos

A pincho (Spanish; literally, thorn or spike) or pintxo (Basque) is the name of certain snacks typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country. Originating in the Basque Country, they are usually eaten in bars or taverns as a small snack while hanging out with friends or relatives; thus, they have a strong socializing component, and they are usually regarded as a cornerstone of Basque Culture and Society. They are related to tapas, the main difference being that pinchos are ordered and eaten individually, whilst tapas are usually a small portion of food to be shared. In addition, tapas are served on a small dish, while pinchos are generally arranged on bread slices.

They're called pinchos because many of them have a pincho (Spanish for spike), typically a toothpick —or a skewer for the larger varieties— through them. They should not be confused with brochettes, which in Spain and Latin America are called pinchos too; in brochettes, the skewer or toothpick is needed in order to cook the food or keep it together.


Basque pincho

A typical snack of the Basque Country, "pinchos" consist of small slices of bread upon which an ingredient or mixture of ingredients is placed and fastened with a toothpick, which gives the food its name "pincho", meaning "spike." Pinchos are usually eaten as an appetizer, accompanied by a small glass of rosé wine (called txikito, pronounced "chi-KEE-tow") or beer (zurito, quarter of a pint). Pinchos are very common in the taverns of the Basque Country, and in other areas heavily influenced by the Basques, such as Cantabria, La Rioja, northern Burgos and Navarre, where a variety of pinchos is usually served on a tray at the bar.

In this type of pinchos, the toothpick is used to keep ingredients from falling off the bread, as well as to keep track of the number of items that the customer has eaten. Sometimes, differently priced pinchos have toothpicks of different shapes or sizes.

Almost any ingredient can be put on the bread, but those most commonly found in the Basque Country include fish such as hake, cod, anchovy, or baby eels; tortilla de patatas; stuffed peppers; and croquettes. However, pinchos can be very sophisticated, sometimes consisting of very elaborate (and sometimes expensive) fish, seafood, or meats.

As said before, pinchos are used as an excuse for socializing. Typically, a group of friends will go from one tavern to another, drinking small glasses of wine or beer and eating pinchos.

The best pincho taverns are found in San Sebastián, in Guipuzcoa, where some of the most elaborate pinchos can be tasted. The taverns in Bilbao, Biscay are also considered to be excellent.

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