If anyone hasn’t noticed yet, everytime I talk about travelling I talk about food. It’s kind of an automatic reflex, I guess it comes from the fat kid trapped in my body. So, after talking about the magical Lisbon and before I dedicate another post to the stunning coast of Portugal, let me start a brief insight into Portuguese food. Fasten your seatbelts, these are my suggestions:
Lunch and dinner
Meals in Portugal usually start putting on the table various petiscos, small bites to open up your appetite. Usually it’s a basket of sliced bread along with butter and spreadable pâtés of tuna, sardines and/or cheese, accompanied by a pot of good olives. Often you can find quejo fresco (fresh firm cheese with a very delicate flavour) or other kinds of cheese (I’m a big fan of the cow and sheep milk one, which is still soft but cured and creamy).
As a starter I suggest you to try the appetising croquetes made with chicken or pork meat (or the gorgeous version with codfish), or the rissóis de camarão, deep fried satchels stuffed with creamy shrimps… an absolute delight.
The typical Portuguese dish is bacalhau (salted codfish) cooked in many ways. My favourite recipes are bacalhau com natas (baked with potatoes, onions and a delicious cream, with a layer of cheese gratin on top… My tastebuds just had an orgasm. A multiple one) and bacalhau à brás (prepared in a casserole with eggs, onion, a fine julienne of potato fries, olive and parsley).
If you are visiting the coast of Portugal don’t forget to try cataplana de mariscos (a casserole with yummy seafood in tomato and garlic sauce) and the already mentioned (in my previous post) grilled sardines, and especially if you are in Portimão I suggest you the zapateira (a giant crab with a tender and juicy meat).
As an option for those who don’t like fish and seafood (really? why? have you tried to seek professional help?) there’s a very simple and rustic dish that I like to order, called bitoque: it’s basically a pan fried steak of beef or pork with an egg on top, served with chips, rice and salad. A full meal in one plate that will keep you going all day!
Originary from the area of Porto is the francesinha, a cube shaped club sandwich with ham, meat and cheese, all coated in cheese and sitting proudly in a beef gravy. They certainly know how to make a sandwich sexy.
Portugal has a nice selection of street food that you can devour during celebrations, city fairs or summer seasons. If you’re particularly hungry try the bifana, a soft bread bun filled with grilled pork meat, or the appetising pão com chouriço, a roll of bread dough wrapped around the good Portuguese spicy salami: during the baking process, the chouriço releases juice that infuses the bread, maximising the flavour.
My favourite paragraph! Portugal is famous worldwide for its pasteis de nata, custard tarts of crunchy puff pastry with a caramelised sugar layer on top, served sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s tradition, when in Portugal,to have at least one pastel de nata per day (it’s my tradition, to be specific). But the country has a whole rich array of pastries that are absolutely gorgeous. Bolas de Berlim are big balls of fried donut dough filled with doce de ovo (a custard made mainly with egg yolks and sugar) or chocolate, or, in some heavenly occasions, with doce de leite. Travesseiro is a puff pastry cilinder with icing sugar on top, typical of the Sintra region, and queijada is a baked little milk cake (also available in a version infused with orange juice, called queijada de laranja). Speaking of proper cakes, my favourite is undoubtedly pudim, a light flan made with eggs, sugar and milk, cooked in bain-marie or oven baked, in a caramel sauce. Ok, I need to have my glycaemia levels checked now.
In Portugal, sangria seems to be the refreshing drink of choice, available in various versions (try the muscatel one!) all over the territory. Of course you can’t leave the country without having tried Porto, the characteristic fortified wine, or the Vinho Verde (young and lightly bubbly). But above all, what I strongly recommend you is to enter the seductive and magic world of Ginjinha. It’s a sour cherry liquor, sweet and voluptuous, served in little cups made of dark chocolate: you drink the shot and you eat the cup straight after. It’s pure sex. Tradition wants that everytime you see the word “ginjinha” written outside a bar you must enter and have one (again, it’s my tradition, of course).
I hope this little smattering of Portuguese food was helpful! Tell me about your experience, what are your favourite things to order when you’re in Portugal?
[Note about the pictures: the images in this post are pictures I took during my stay in Portugal, along with some other ones I found on Pinterest. If you own any of the latter please let me know and I’ll credit you properly, or remove them if you don’t want them to feature in my post 😉 ]