Anthony Bourdain sums it up perfectly if you want to understand how important food is to the Portuguese travel icon and chef extraordinaire.
When he visited Portugal back in 2009 with his show ‘No Reservations,’ he said, “Portugal was the first country where I went to a show, where, you know, they have four-hour lunches, and they’ve been talking about what they’re having for dinner.”
No truer words have been spoken. The Portuguese dining experience is as iconic as the hundreds of dishes they’re famous for. We know you can’t try them all, but here are seven authentic Portuguese dishes you can’t come home without trying…
If you’re after some classic Portuguese comfort food, you may want to try caldo verde is a beloved northern Portuguese dish. A delicious soup made with onions, mashed potatoes, garlic, shredded kale, and chouriço or chorizo sausage, caldo verde is hailed as one of the ‘7 wonders of Portuguese gastronomy and the perfect complement to an evening of rhythmic ‘Fado,’ Portugal’s national sound.
Polvo à Lagareiro
For adventurous seafood lovers, fresh octopus is a common ingredient you’ll find in most restaurants across the country, especially in coastal regions like the Algarve, polvo a lagareiro is a popular but simple dish served on a bed of oven-roasted potatoes with herbed garlic oil.
If you’ve ever been to Southern Africa, you’ve likely had piri-piri chicken. While piri-piri is popular across Portugal, this spicy dish originated in South Africa when Christian Portuguese sailors brought bird’s eye chilies, the main ingredient, to South Africans. If you’re not a fan of too much heat, you can ask for your piri-piri to be mild, medium, or extra fiery.
If Portugal is known for any dish, it’s Bacalhau, which is the Portuguese term for cod. It’s believed there are over 1000 different ways to cook bacalhau, and each town, village, and region has its spin on this iconic dish. One favorite variation is Bacalhau à Brás, shredded cod blended with eggs and bits of potato into a fishcake. Just a heads up, when you’re ordering it from a restaurant, bacalhau is dried and salted cod, and ‘bacalhau fresco’ is fresh cod.
Another one of the ‘7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy’ is Alheira sausage. It is known as much for its history as its flavor. During the Inquisition period in the mid-1500s, Jewish people were threatened with execution if they didn’t convert to Christianity. So rather than convert, many Jews practiced secretly and fooled the locals into thinking they had converted by making ‘pork-like’ sausages from chicken and other meats that weren’t pork. Today, Alheira can be made with pork, duck, veal, and other meats.
Pastel de Nata
This is, hands down Portugal’s most popular and most famous dish, and it just so happens to be one of the most delicious desserts you’ll ever eat. This creamy custard tart, dusted with cinnamon sugar, might become your favorite way to finish off any meal.
Trigger warning for all vegetarians and vegans. There are plenty of dishes throughout Portugal that are vegetarian friendly, porco preto is not one of them! This pork dish is made from a special breed of pig originating in Spain and Portugal. The most popular place to try this dish is
Alentejo, a region known as the ‘Tuscany of Portugal.’ Known for its sun-drenched beaches, laid back life, and flavorful grilled cuisine.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to Portugal’s culinary landscape, but you have to start somewhere. Be bold, be adventurous, and most importantly, never sit down to a Portuguese meal in a hurry – Savor every morsel and moment and always leave room for dessert.
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