Nestled on the border of Spain and facing the North Atlantic Ocean, the southern European country of Portugal is a delightful place to explore. Just as interesting as the sights is the Portuguese food you can try on your stay there, capturing the essence of Portuguese cuisine.
Here are some of the foods you just have to try when you’re in Portugal if you really want to immerse yourself in the culinary culture, especially if you’re in the Algarve.
To visit Portugal and not sample some salty cod, or bacalhau as it’s known in Portuguese, would be simply unforgivable. This is the country’s national dish and the Portuguese eat it some two or three times a week.
There are all kinds of recipes possible, including baked bacalhau with cream and potatoes, or as part of a cold chickpea salad.
If you’re out in the Algarve while on your Portugal holidays, you can enjoy some cod croquettes as a starter.
Pastel de nata
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll absolutely love this quintessential of Portuguese desserts, the pastel de nata.
Although not particularly artful in its appearance, when these custard tarts hit the taste buds you’ll realise that they’re a culinary masterpiece.
Lisbon is the home of the Portuguese custard tart, with the family owned business Pasteis de Belem believed to make the best custard tarts not just in Portugal but in the world — perfectly possible seeing as they’ve been making them since 1837!
Mediterranean countries are renowned for their love of seafood and in the Algarve the people are particularly passionate about it.
An hour east of Albufeira you’ll find one of the best food markets in the Algarve. The fishing village of Olhão has been in the business of seafood trading as far back as the Middle Ages, and is well known for this tradition.
You can browse more than 80 different stalls here. Lobster, dorada (gilt-head bream), squid… this market has it all.
The Portuguese know how to appreciate the simpler things in life. In the Algarve, you’ll notice boiled potatoes are a popular side dish, and part of the local gastronomic culture.
Another small plate is the regional salad of tomato, cucumber, raw onion and oregano. Modest as it is, this side dish works a treat with whatever the catch of the day may be. You’ll love it just as much as they do!
Caracois con cerveja
This is one for the more adventurous culinary explorers out there, but snails and beer are a big hit with the locals in the Algarve.
The snails are placed under a drying process to prepare them for cooking. Once the process is complete, they’re boiled and mixed with a variety of herbs, before being drained and served with plenty of crusty bread.
You can choose these as a light snack in the spring and summer, or head out in the evening and make a meal of it, eating snails until you’ve had your fill.
Portugal is a country where you can really soak up the country’s culture by appreciating the local fare. With such delicious and interesting foods available, it’s one place you certainly won’t leave feeling hungry!
Have you been to Portugal? What was your favourite Portuguese food?
For more of Carmen and Dave’s Portugal adventures, click here.
About the Author
Daisy Cliffs is a freelance interpreter, foodie and Mediterranean culture enthusiast. You’ll never find her away from a museum.