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12 Portuguese foods you must try when on holiday

Posted on March 21,2016
Portuguese foods you must try when on holidayWhat things make your ideal meal when you’re on holiday? For some people, it’s a quiet table in a fancy restaurant, expensive seafood, and an amazing view out to the ocean. For others it’s a big juicy burger in a local diner, and a bloke with a dodgy pony tail playing Dire Straits instrumentals on an electric guitar while you eat (I may be talking from personal experience here).

What things make your ideal meal when you’re on holiday? For some people, it’s a quiet table in a fancy restaurant, expensive seafood, and an amazing view out to the ocean. For others it’s a big juicy burger in a local diner, and a bloke with a dodgy pony tail playing Dire Straits instrumentals on an electric guitar while you eat (I may be talking from personal experience here).

You could answer that question in a million ways, but there are always two things that come up in every answer: great food, and great drink.

If you’re heading to Portugal on holiday, you’re spoilt for both (especially if you hire a car and have the freedom to drive around). We’ve already covered where to taste wine in Portugal, so now we’re turning our focus to food. Here are 12 Portuguese foods you simply must try when you’re there:

Pastel de nata

Pastel de nata

Mmmm, cream and pastry: the cornerstones of a nutritious breakfast. As connected with the district of Belém as the bagel is to New York and the Croissant is to Paris; the pastel de nata (cream pastry) is a staple morning meal in Portugal. Originating from Belém but now available across the country, pastel de nata is known internationally as simply a Portuguese Tart or a Portuguese Egg Tart.

Bacalhau

Bacalhau

Consider it the Portuguese version of fish and chips. Bacalhau is essentially salty dried codfish served with olive oil and a form of potatoes varying from fries to boiled or mashed. Onions, cabbage and carrots round off the plate, and you’ll often find it on menus served three ways: Bacalhau à Brás (baked with fries), Bacalhau no Forno (in the oven), and Bacalhau com Natas (with cream – similar to a fish pie).

Carne de porco Alentejana

Carne de porco Alentejana

The Portuguese ‘surf and turf’ is known as carne de porco Alentejana. Juicy pork cooked with fresh clams left to simmer and stew in their own juices, before being dished up with roasted potatoes. This dish and a glass of red wine is pure heaven.

Francesinha

Francesinha

You might remember this deliciously-indulgent Portuguese dish from our Foodie’s Guide to Europe. Here’s what we wrote about it then: Imagine the croque-monsieur – essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with melted béchamel cheese – but with additional fillings (including one with giant shrimp and one with steak); all topped with an outrageously delicious spicy sauce, usually containing beer and tomato. It’s often topped with a fried egg, too.

Caldeirada

Caldeirada

This popular dish is common along the Portuguese coast and can feature just about any seafood you can imagine (varying types of fish and shellfish). It’s a luxurious and thick fish stew cooked with tomatoes and herbs. Some areas focus on one ingredient in particular; for example, eel is the dish of the day in Aveiro (between Porto and Coimbra), so keep an eye out for ‘caldeirada de Enguias’.

Polvo à Lagareiro

Polvo à Lagareiro

If you’re squeamish about seafood with tentacles, this dish might not be for you. However, if you want to get over your gripe, there’s no tastier dish than polvo à lagareiro – an octopus dish where the meat (complete with tentacles) is boiled before being oven-roasted with lashings of garlic and olive oil. Octopus is actually very low in calories and high protein; served with baked or roasted potatoes, this is a very popular dish throughout the country.

Leitão

Leitão

Not one for the vegetarians, but if exquisitely roasted and basted suckling pig with melt-in-the-mouth flesh and crunchy skin sounds good to you, then read on. You’ll be able to find Leitão wherever you are in the country, but we suggest you get in the hire car and head to Mealhada – a small town in the Bairrada wine region. It’s the best pork you’ll ever eat.

Caldo verde

Caldo verde

It’s a starter, a late-night snack, a comfort food, and a national treasure. Caldo verde is a hearty soup made with potatoes, onions, kale, and tender slices of chorizo pork sausage.

Farinheira & alheira

Farinheira & alheira

There’s nothing quite like food with a history as rich as its taste. Farinheira was originally a pork-free sausage made with just seasoned flour created by Jews in the 15th century to trick the Portuguese Inquisition into thinking they’d converted to Christianity (and were therefore no longer kosher). However, it’s now sometimes made with pork fat, while alheira is a sausage made with essentially any meat other than pork (often veal, duck, chicken, quail or rabbit). These sausages are very popular across Portugal and Spain.

Chouriço

Chouriço

Now that we’ve covered the pork-free sausages, we can move onto the real deal. It might be commonly associated with Spanish tapas bars, but Portuguese chouriço is less spicy and is served with more flair. Usually a bar snack, the waiter will serve it on a clay dish, before covering it in alcohol and cooking it for you right there on the table.

Bitoque

Bitoque

This dish is classic pub food, done Portuguese-style. Bitoque is basically steak, egg, and chips, and is incredibly popular across the country. Enjoy with a glass of local red wine.

Tripas

Tripas

Yep, you guessed it – it’s tripe. Tripas is a dish with heritage; it’s said that back in the 14th century, all meat except for offal was shipped out of Porto and sent to Portuguese troops based in Africa during Napoleon’s siege. The locals had to make the most of the tripe, and it’s still a very culturally important dish in the city. Porto locals are even called ‘tripeiros’. It’s served in a delicious stew with white beans and a tomato sauce, although modern recipes include chicken stock, pork ribs, and chouriço.

Feeling hungry? We don’t blame you! Make sure you hire a car before you head to Portugal, so that you can travel around to the best destinations for truly inspiring local cuisine. While you’re here – why don’t you check out the best places to drink wine in Portugal?

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