Portugal will captivate us with many flavours – from the exceptionally intense sweetness of pastéis de nata to the characteristic salty bacalhau. What else is the homeland of fado and port famous for?
Portugal borders the Atlantic Ocean, which is why fish and seafood reign supreme in the cuisine of this small country. The most popular and traditional dish is cod (bacalhau) – usually sold dried and salted in shops and markets. Inhabitants of the westernmost country of Europe argue that this fish can be cooked in 365 ways. The more sceptical Portuguese talk about a hundred variations, while others argue they can name about a thousand of them. Simple bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, i.e. a casserole of salted cod with the addition of potatoes, garlic, onions, hard boiled eggs and sometimes black olives, captivates all senses. In turn, bacalhau à Brás is a combination of fish and onions, thin slices of fried potatoes and scrambled eggs, decorated with parsley. In this part of the Iberian Peninsula, cod croquettes (bolinhos de bacalhau) are also often eaten.
IF NOT BACALHAU, THEN …
Be sure to try grilled sardines (sardinhas assadas), tuna fillet (atum) or swordfish steak (espadarte). The menu of many restaurants also includes mussels. Extremely tasty are those in white wine sauce, as well as shrimps, calamari or octopuses. In the end, it is in Portugal that the largest amount of fish and seafood in Europe is consumed – even 80-90 kg per person.
CUISINE FULL OF SURPRISES
The northern part of Portugal, especially Porto, is famous for francesinha sandwich, a true caloric bomb that comprises ham, sausage, roasted meat, and more. On top of it, you will find baked yellow cheese. Francesinha is served with a tomato, beer sauce and hearty fries. The local culinary art surprises with extraordinary combinations – mussels are added to pork (carne de Porco à Alentejana), whereas aromatic sauces accompanying meat are made from coffee.
SWEETS WITH TRADITION
The Portuguese love sweets – cake shops can be easily found on every corner. The most famous, very sweet dessert is pastéis de nata. These French pastry muffins filled with a delicate filling based on yolks and sugar come from Lisbon, more precisely from the Belém district (hence their different name: pasteis de Belém). Initially, they were baked by the Hieronymites in their monastery. After their dissolution in 1834, the production of pastries was moved to a building near the monastery. Currently, this place is called Antiga Confeitaria de Belém or Pastéis de Belém. Creamy sweets have been baked here continuously since 1837.
PORT AND MORE
In 2001, Alto Douro, a wine region in north-eastern Portugal, located by the Douro River, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage L ist. The long tradition of viticulture, which results in a picturesque landscape reflecting technical, social and economic development, has been distinguished as its most important feature. This area is famous for a production of well-known port – a fortified wine ripening in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, a city belonging to the administrative and industrial area of Grande Porto. Although there are many varieties of this drink, the most classic is Tawny port, which goes well with desserts and dark chocolate. In turn, Madeira Island produces Madeira, which is also strengthened with sweet or dry wine. If you prefer more refreshing alcohols, try the sparkling wine (vinho espumante), which is distinguished by a delicate, vanilla aroma, freshness and of course bubbles, which are pleasant for the palate.