To whet your appetite for our upcoming gay Portugal tour — Lisbon & Porto Gourmet Foray — we’ve compiled a list of must-try foods from the coastal country. Each item has a special place in Portuguese history and culture.
1. Caldo Verde
From Portugal’s humble peasant population comes the country’s best soup: Caldo Verde. Don’t be off-put by the swampy green colour, a result of blending together onions, potatoes and kale or collard greens. Today, the soup is commonly flavoured with chunks of pork or sausage.
2. Cozido de Furnas
The Azorean take on Cozido a Portuguesa (a rustic stew ladled throughout Portugal) is turning culinary heads with its unique cooking style; holes are dug into the side of active volcanoes, becoming mini-ovens for pots filled with a variety of meat, game and aromatic vegetables. The meat braises in its own juices for hours, producing a magmatic… er… magnificent stew.
3. Piri Piri
Perhaps the most famous hot sauce in the world began in Portugal. Piri Piri Sauce (or simply ‘Piri Piri’) is made from the region’s spicy peppers, lemon rind and olive oil. Unlike similar condiments, piri piri is used as a marinade just as often as a hot sauce.
They say there are 365 recipes for cod in Portugal, one for every day of the year. While that number is doubtful, the adage does pay homage to the economic importance of this meaty whitefish. Seek out Bacalhau a Bras, meaning Salt Cod in the ‘Bras’ style — shredded cod fried with onions, grated potatoes and scrambled eggs. Alternatively, Bolinhos de Bacalhau is a fried cod fritter widely enjoyed as an appetizer.
5. Seafood in General
Cod may be the country’s staple seafood, but it’s far from it’s only. Azoreans in particular are quite fond of fish and you’ll find an ocean of options on restaurant menus throughout the islands. Try Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato — clams cooked with olive oil and cilantro — with a crusty Portuguese bread to soak up the sauce.
Like cod, pork has always been a staple in Portugal. You’ll find the fatty meat in nearly everything, including one of our all-time favourite dishes Rojoes a Moda do Minho. Thick chunks of the other white meat are slowly simmered in their own lard until they’re so tender they fall apart at the touch of a fork.
An interesting historical point of Portuguese cuisine arose in the 15th Century when King Manuel ordered all Jewish residents to convert to Christianity. To keep true to their faith and remain kosher, Portuguese-Jews started producing Alheira de Mirandela which looks like a sausage but contains any/every meat except pork.
8. Egg Yolks
Another point of history for Portugal resides in its yolk-based desserts. One of the country’s largest exports during the middle ages was egg whites, a known purifier for white wine and iron suits. To supplement their income, monastery nuns used the surplus of yolks to create custard-based goodies such as the adored Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts), Pudim Flã (flan) and Arroz Doce (Custard Rice Pudding).
9. Vinho Verde
Slightly deceptive, “Green Wine” isn’t named after the colour of the grape, wine or bottle. In fact, Vinho Verde grapes can be used to produce both red and white wines. The name actually reflects how young the slightly sparkling wine is supposed to be drunk. Best served ice cold on a hot summer day.
Produced exclusively in the Duoro Valley, the famous fortified wine is noted for it’s smooth, slightly sweet and completely agreeable palette. The Duoro Valley was the third wine growing region in the entire world to become government protected, just behind Hungary’s Tokaj-Hegyalja and Italy’s Chianti regions.
Take a bite out of Portugal on our Lisbon & Porto Gourmet Foray.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Futurismo, Wikipedia Commons x 4, All About Portugal, Wikipedia Commons, Shutterstock x 2, Wikipedia Commons.)
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