On my Portugal trip, I made it a point to try and eat local Portuguese specialties and get a taste of the local culture, which resulted in some pretty interesting food on the table. Here’s a look at some of the more memorable food I ate and my recommendations on what to eat in Portugal.
Bacalhau (dried cod)
One thing you’ll quickly realise is that everywhere you turn in Portugal unearths a new bacalhau dish. Bacalhau or dried salted cod fish is the quintessential ingredient to many classic Portuguese dishes. The saying is that there are over 1,000 bacalhau recipes, but the funny thing is that this fish isn’t even native to Portugal – they import most of it from Norway and other countries.
So when in doubt or seeking out the local speciality, pick the bacalhau, which is what I did in Lisbon where the waiter recommended the Special of the Day: Bacalhau a bras, which is their famous cod shredded and mixed with potato.
Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese egg tart)
The Portuguese egg tart is one of the country’s most visible and delicious exports, and you can find versions of this custard egg tart or Pasteis de Nata all over the country, but the place it originated from is Pasteis de Belem in the Belem district of Lisbon, close to the Jeronimos Monastery.
Vino Verde (green wine)
My choice of alcohol is usually a pint of beer, but here in Portugal, most of my meals were paired with Vino Verde, which literally translates to Green Wine. It doesn’t refer to the actual colour of the wine (unlike red wines and white wines which are pretty visually self explanatory), but green in this case means ‘young’ as the grapes aren’t aged as long as most typical wines.
Of note: Only wines that originate from the old Minho region (in northern Portugal) can call their wines Vino Verde, so it’s definitely worth indulging in here in Portugal.
I travelled Lisbon and Lagos with a friend on this trip, but was going solo by the time I made it up north to Porto, so I had to eat this amazing Franescinha dish at the popular Cafe Santiago on my own. The meat-cheese-egg combo was staggeringly delicious but the portion was hefty, and while I think I did quite an admirable job on finishing the dish, I also felt a little bit like exploding after that. Definitely no room for dessert after this!
When in Porto, how could I not indulge in a whole lot of port wine? I had a glass or two with practically every meal in Porto.
I took a Port Wine Tour with Wild Walkers that brought us to the Ramos Pinto Wine Cave, followed by a visit to Porto Cruz and capped off with a sunset boat ride along the Douro River and a little traditional Portuguese Fado music at the end. I had 7 glasses of port and trust me when I say, people became real fast friends after the first few glasses :) We went for a huge group dinner later that night, though quite frankly I have very little recollection of what we ate.
Tripas (tripe stew)
Tasquinha was a lovely cozy family-run restaurant that I visited in Porto, and stuffed myself with this traditional Porto dish of Tripas a modo do Porto – a white bean tripe stew that’s very hearty and tasty.
Chanfana (goat stew)
I didn’t really mean to order Chanfana aka goat stew while in Coimbra, this, but I was in an adventurous mood because the menu was entirely in Portuguese and that’s what the waiter recommended. I was pretty ambivalent about it though: the soup/stew bit was kinda oily but it was a Portuguese specialty so guess I’ve been there, tried that.
The fun part of this meal was meeting the old German couple sitting in the next table who had ordered this dish too. We got to chatting about the dish and the restaurant owner decided that we were all adorable and brought over his special bottle of Fire Water – well it’s actually called Aguardente Bagaciera but it sure as hell felt like firewater as it burns its way down your throat –to share. I had 2 shots as a nightcap and slept quite deeply that night.
What have you eaten in Portugal? Tell me what I missed out on and what I need to put on my list of things to eat in Portugal for the future! Meanwhile, check out my other Portugal posts here: