Portugal is one of the most fascinating European destinations where one can find some of the best food on the continent. Fish and seafood are the stars of Portuguese gastronomy, but it goes a lot further than fish. Whether you’re a foodie or not, Portugal should be your next destination.
I remember the first time I went to Portugal. Out of all the things that stood out to a 12 year-old kid, food was the top of the list. It wasn’t just in Lisbon that the food was incredible but the memory that stands out the most is from a little town on the Spanish border called Elvas, where we went to a local restaurant that served us portions so big that we were unable to finish them, one thing that had never happened to me before. Here we were able to reflect on how good Portuguese cuisine really is and how well we ate on our travels. Whether you go left or right out of the front door, you will always find a restaurant not far away that serves amazing food.
The star dish of Portuguese cuisine is cod. However, this fish comes mostly from northern seas, but we mustn’t forget the fact that Portuguese discoverers were the best in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries and their discovery of Newfoundland or Terranova brought with it the discovery of a fish that had never been eaten before, cod of course. The Portuguese cook cod in so many different ways that it would be unfair to single a few out. What you can be sure about is that it doesn’t matter in which way you order it, it will be delicious and it will melt in our mouth. Bacalhau as the Portuguese call it is on all menus in the country, so make sure you try it because otherwise you’d be missing out on the most important Portuguese delight.
Being a coastal country, Portugal of course has many seafood and shellfish dishes. Caldeirada is a famous dish that’s a stew of fish, shellfish and potatoes, ideal if you want to try the best seafood all at once. However, if you’re not a big fan of fish, you won’t feel out of place upon looking at a Portuguese menu. Meats are very popular in Portugal, whether it’s cold meats or hot meats, on a platter or in a stew. The Cozido à Portugesa is a famous stew that includes vegetables and meats (mostly pork and beef, with smoked sausages inside that make it into a soup as well that’s very filling.
Vegetable-wise, everyone has heard about the feijoada, the stew of black beans and pork that’s so typical of Portugal. Usually served with rice, this dish is a favourite in most Portuguese colonies like Brazil or Angola, and its casserole style preparation make it a must in all Portuguese cookbooks.
When it comes to baking, the Portuguese are right up there with all the best bakers in Europe. Not only is Portuguese bread something quite special (try it and you’ll see why), but those with a sweet tooth will definitely find their place in Lisbon, with so many dishes that can be enjoyed as breakfast, dessert or a midday snack that one will have to be careful about putting on some pounds. The famous Pastéis de Belém are famous little custard cakes whose original recipe is a secret and can be enjoyed in the Lisbon neighbourhood of Belém. Also the pão de ló is a delicious sponge cake that can be scented with orange or cinnamon and that’s mostly eaten as a dessert.
Lastly, Portuguese wine is one of the best in Europe, with reds and rosés that can rival any from Spanish or French vineyards. Also, the famous port is from this country, so trying it cannot go amiss.
One of the pleasures of travelling is trying the local food, which you can eat in any restaurant or cook yourself after a trip to the local market. Either way, Portugal is a great gastronomic destination, a characteristic that is added to its many other attractions.