Portugal is a country with a rich history and much of its food reflects this. Flavourful and spicy, Portuguese food adds a punch to European cuisine and there are some exemplary delicacies. While it can be difficult to know where to start, there are some that stand out for their distinctive flavours.
- One of the most popular is bacalhau, which is salted dried codfish. Originating over 500 years ago in Scandinavia, this dish has since become a firm favourite throughout Portugal. Curiously, bacalhau is the only fish that is not served fresh and, though an acquired taste, remains a fixture for special occasions and religious celebrations.
- Alentejo pork – This comes from the specially bred Black Iberian pig of the Alentejo area in the south-central region of Portugal and has a very distinct taste. This is due to the pig’s organic diet of acorns, herbs and fresh grass. The pork, known as porco preto, is moist and succulent and always in high demand. The meat is also used to make a special ham known as presunto, which is similar to Italian prosciutto.
- It is thanks to Portugal’s exploration of the world that certain ingredients were introduced into Europe, such as saffron, paprika and pepper. This spice influence is also reflected in the nation’s smoke-cured sausages. Probably the most famous of these sausages is chouriço, which is now widely available across Europe. Others are linguiça, farinheira and alheira. Each region has its own version of each sausage, which differ in the herbs, spices and meat ingredients used. These sausages are sold throughout Portugal and add an extra dimension to many of the country’s dishes, providing flavours that you will not find elsewhere in the world.
- The most renowned of these is Serra de Estrela. A sheep-milk cheese from the mountainous region after which it is named, it is smooth and delicate and a firm favourite all over the country. Even though it is not nearly as well known as its French and English counterparts, Portuguese cheese is well worth trying.
- For those with more of a sweet tooth, there is Pastel de Belem. A type of custard tart, also known as Pasteis de Nata, its roots lie with the nuns of the Mosteiro de Jeronimos in Lisbon. Hundreds of years after its invention, the recipe is still a closely guarded secret, resulting in a unique flavour. The most famous place to buy these is still at the pastry shop close to where they first originated – the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem in Lisbon.
Underrated, or perhaps simply undiscovered, Portuguese and Portuguese-influenced cuisine has many hidden culinary gems. Such delicacies should be savoured and enjoyed by visitors.
If you want to experience a wide range of the foods on offer in Portugal, visiting a range of regions is the best way to ensure you’ve tried as many of the delicacies as possible.
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