Five Foods to Try in Portugal
At least half the fun of travel is partaking in local treats and traditional fare. Portugal isn’t a huge country, but it is diverse. From the fresh seafood of the coastal Algarve region to the rich meat and game of the Alentejo’s inland cities, Portugal has a vast array of cuisine on offer. However, there are a few quintessential Portuguese dishes, delicacies and drinks you must try.
Sardines are an extremely popular Portuguese dish, especially in the Algarve where restaurants specializing in platefuls of the grilled fish line the boardwalks. Served whole and often with sides of boiled potatoes and green salad, salty sardines provide perfect seaside fare in the Portuguese heat. Ubiquitous and cheap, they are excellent for a quick lunch or a lingering twilight dinner.
Pastel de nata
Pastel de nata or pastel de Belém can be found in pastry shops, or pastelarias, throughout Portugal. The miniature egg tarts originated in Belém, Lisbon, and their birthplace still attracts locals and tourists alike for their delicious tarts. A good tart will have a creamy custard (though some prefer a more curdled texture), a flaky crust, and a caramelized top, sometimes dusted with cinnamon or powdered sugar.
Cataplana is often described as a Portuguese take on paella, and is most popular in the Algarve. It is a seafood stew, often with potatoes, onions, and peppers, cooked together in a flavourful broth. It earns its name from the metal clam-shaped dish it is cooked in, and is divine with crusty bread and a view of the ocean.
Piri piri sauces and spices can now be purchased and consumed all over the world. It rose to popularity in Portugal after, as one story goes, Christopher Columbus brought a similar variety of pepper to Portugal’s African colonies from America, and it cross-pollinated with native peppers to create what is now known as piri piri. Portuguese piri piri sauce combines the spicy peppers with a variety of savoury flavours, and is most famously used on chicken.
You can’t enjoy Portuguese food without some wine, and Portuguese tipples complement their traditional foods very well. Port wine, from the Duoro region, is famous for its deep, rich, and sweet flavours, fabulous for pairing with desserts. Vinho verde is nearly the opposite. It’s a palatable, light, and crisp white wine that matches well with seafood and is refreshing in the hot Portuguese sun.
This is by no means a definitive list of all the excellent food and drink on offer around Portugal, but simply highlights some of Portugal’s most ubiquitous, well-known, and – above all – delicious dishes.
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