Try this food in Portugal
Apart from fantastic pastelarias and (sometimes) fine tourist menus, here is my list of local delicacies, most of which we bought to cater for ourselves and most of which you can buy at a Portuguese supermarket.
Gastronomic specialities of Portugal (a list of 12 foods to expand – feel free!)
Portugal is batting high in the cheese department. The local cheese variety is delicious. The soft versions are to die for.
My favourite cheese is the fresh soft cheese, packaged in small plastic containers swimming in water, which you can get at most supermarkets or well-stocked local grocery shops.
Queijo Fresco is made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk and comes in whole or skimmed. The more fatty ones are clearly my taste bud winners. Queijo Fresco is good for breakfast, sliced on bread, or for dinner sprinkled with olive oil, pepper and salt.
Another favourite is the requeijão – superb cottage cheese.
Yet another melt in your mouth cheese is the semi hard Queijo Curado which comes in variously sized rounds, thin paper wrapping or plastic food nets. You will often get it served for entrada (starter) in may restaurants.
So precious they are, they have to be protected on supermarket shelves.
We got addicted to the fresh, buttery and semi hard cheese variations (but avoided the smelly ones for obvious reasons), which came in plenty in choice and price categories.
This sample cheese platter was 2,50 Euros.
Tomek is a die-hard cheese fan. The One’s Portuguese quattro formaggi version.
Strawberry jam for breakfast? No! We are in Portugal and blend in with the locals preference of marmelada. Made from sour, hard and unpalatable quince fruit. Biting into fresh quince is no bueno but this jam-jelly-paste is just perfect. And very firm.
Upon further thought, I don’t think the fruit in the picture which I bought at a local shop is actually quince.
If you did not come across bacalhau, you have probably not tasted Portugal. The affordable, cheap and chewy cod fish that comes in all shapes and dishes.
If the dried and salted supermarket version is a bit too raw, try the freshly cooked bacalhau with potatoes at the restaurant.
I have had my fair share of bacalhau in all edible varieties and decided to take a break after we noticed that the last bacalhau can was difficult to finish.
Bacalhau is not a very delicate fish. I think I have reached my bacalhau threshold. For this year.
4. PASTEL DE NATA
Portuguese custard tarts are exquisite and I cannot see any limits of consumption reached any time soon. Pastel de nata come in various sizes. They are consumed in every cake shop and coffee shop in the country.
Add plenty of sugar and cinnamon for the ultimate kick.
If any pastelaria does not make you happy, the best egg tarts are found at their place of origin, namely Antiga Confeitaria in Belém, where in ancient times egg whites were used to starch monk’s clothes and the yolks ended up in the creation of pastel de nata or how this Confeitaria exclusively calls it ‘pasteis de Belém‘.
The world drinks coffee, Portugal sips bica. The espresso is popularly paired with pastel de nata and just as mild and tasty. You can order yours with milk, for more heavenly creaminess.
I am no coffee drinker and amazed that I had so many bica in Portugal. I might have been buying espresso just to be presented with those pretty micro cups and saucers.
6. HOT SAUCE
If you like to drain your food in hot Tabasco sauce like myself, I have found just the Portuguese alternative for you. Portugal makes a Hungarian style red pepper paste with traditionally way too much salt, so this product wins using no salt nor vinegar.
A true competition to Tabasco and all red pepper pastes – Piri Piri Molho is not about vinegar domination but chilli flavour!
7. GALLO OLIVE OIL the rooster
I first fell in love with the olive tree in Greece but Portugal’s azeite is my latest foodie fling. From Gallo. Gallo is the number one Portuguese olive oil brand – omnipresent on shops shelves and restaurant tables.
A Portuguese company with a family history it is long since in the hands of Unilever. But I like to imagine that Gallo‘s olives are still teased from the tree with whittled hazel prongs and bagged in rough hemp sacks to be delivered to the press for a super duper first class virgin pressing straight into my hand crafted bottle.
Why a rooster to brand mark olive oil? There is this boring story that says the company’s founder was inspired hearing a rooster from his window but… I prefer to make up my world as I go along and so when I look at the logo I see another rooster story.
The legendary Portuguese rooster that saved an innocent man from an unjust trial (google the rooster of Barcelo). This rooster is on every postcard, apron, tablecloth, t-shirt or ceramic souvenir. And on my olive oil bottle.
8. PORTUGUESE PATÉ and CANNED FISH
Buy yourself some minced Portuguese appetizer to try Portuguese paté, and see if you like it.
The most popular brand is Minerva and the bestseller is Portuguese sardinhas paté (sardines paste) or their canned sardinhas em azeite com alho (sardine with olive oil and garlic).
There is more variety. Like atum (tuna) or marisco (shellfish). The neat tiny paste cans come in all kinds of fish and seafood flavours and they are a decent bread spread addition.
This is what our Portuguese breakfast would look like. Aforementioned cheese delights and Minerva’s paté de crevette.
Canned fish has recently gone ‘gourmet‘ in Portugal. You will come across various vintage chic ‘gourmet’ shops popping up like mushrooms in Lisbon and Porto, selling revamped canned fish. So do supermarkets, prominently displaying fish cans with sardines, bacalhau, tuna and anchovies in pretty wrapping.
Overall, I enjoyed the paté most, which was something new to stimulate my taste buds. In contrast to the canned stuff. After the pretty wrapping was taken off, it tasted and looked like any canned fish from any supermarket around the world (only difference were the excessive price tags). Maybe because I am a conservative fan of canned sprouts and was missing those on Portuguese shop shelves.
Here you go, the 4 Euro canned fish. But for that price I shall rename it to ‘extra de-boned and skinned sardine fillets in olive oil and garlic’ with fresh lemon.
9. PORT WINE
If you are in Portugal you gotta try the ‘grapey’ treasures of the Douro Valley – bringing about the most excellent port wine in the world!
Let yourself glide into the sweet world of port tipsiness. I have and would definitely recommend Sandeman for that matter. The company owns prime location slopes in the valley, its wine cellars in Porto’s Gaia wine lodge area are impressive and I can genuinely say that their 20 year old tawny is fantastic. Their iconic 20s advertisements (just google it) are the souvenir to bring home. But that is another post.
Tasty welcome present from our hosts in Porto. Not Sandeman but still very good.
10. CHOCOLATE BISCUITS
This is a cheap and popular supermarket snack. I loved it but not sure if it is anything super special. It is super delicious though.
Aros de Chocolate Negro – round crisp butter biscuit rings with a chocolate cover. I already had about four and am snacking on these sweet buggars as I write.
This is a unique Portuguese bread which we ate a lot. Because sadly, Portuguese breads lack refinement. Portuguese seem to prefer the simple soft white bland and squishy buns which are more of a poor man’s filler than anything of value.
Pão de Milho is my favourite of all the classically dull Portuguese breads. Portuguese cornbread stands out in that it is made not only with wheat but corn (obviously).
Pão de Milho is very dense, has a crisp crust and is soft inside (when fresh). It dries and turns hard quickly, so you can buy them in quarters at supermarkets.
12. PORTUGUESE EASTER FOOD
Deserves its own (next) post!