Sunday, August 7, 2022

Food & Drinks in Portugal

EuropePortugalFood & Drinks in Portugal

Read next

Food in Portugal

It is possibly the most diverse experience one can have in the country and is clearly a favourite pastime of the locals.

Portuguese cuisine has evolved from a hearty peasant diet of the countryside, with seafood from the country’s abundant coastline and cows, pigs and goats raised on the limited pastureland inland. From these humble origins, the spices brought into the country during the exploration and colonisation of the East Indies and the Far East helped shape what is considered “typical” Portuguese cuisine, which conversely has also shaped the cuisine of regions under Portuguese influence, from Cape Verde to Japan.

Soup is the first essential dish of any Portuguese meal. The most popular is the Minho speciality, caldo verde, made with kale, potatoes and spicy smoked sausage. Here in Minho you can enjoy the best Vinho Verde, which is rarely bottled. In many places, especially near the coast, you can enjoy a delicious fish soup, always varied, sometimes so thick that you have to eat it with a fork.

You will see a different Portuguese bacalhau (salt cod) everywhere you go. Locals will tell you that there are as many ways to cook this revered dish as there are days in the year, if not more.

The most common fish dishes in Portugal (peixe) are sole (linguado) and sardine (sardinha), but salmon (salmão) and trout (truta) are also very common, not to mention mackerel (carapau), whiting (pescada), sea bass (robalo), angler fish (tamboril) and a variety of turbot (cherne). They are served boiled, fried, grilled or in various sauces.

There are many different rice specialities, such as angler fish rice, octopus rice, duck rice and seafood rice.

In most places you can easily find fresh seafood: lobster (lagosta), lavagante, mussels (mexilhão), oysters (ostras), clams (amêijoas), barnacles (perço).

Depending on the level of tourism in the area you are in, you will see grills outside many restaurants during your stay, with the smoke of charred meat emanating from them. Besides the traditional sardines, Portuguese grilled chicken – marinated in chilli, garlic and olive oil – is world famous. However, if you are tired of the tasteless industrial products of the poultry farms, you can opt instead for a tasty veal escalope (costeleta de novilho) or simply grilled pork.

In the north, there are many types of kid, and in the Alentejo, lamb ensopado and many types of pork, including black pork, which is tastier; the most prized parts of the pig are the secretos and plumas. In the Alentejo, if you ask for the ubiquitous bitoque (small roasted beef, fried potatoes, egg), they will probably serve you pork instead of veal. A popular traditional dish is pork with clams, carne de porco in Alentejana, and slices of fried and breaded squid (tiras de choco frito). Sometimes there are also wild boar dishes.

One of the main specialities of Mealhada (near Coimbra) is undoubtedly the roast suckling pig (leitão) with local sparkling wine and bread. Just like the pastel de nata, you shouldn’t miss it.

Vegetarians can have a hard time in Portugal, at least in traditional Portuguese restaurants. In most restaurants, vegetables (usually boiled or fried potatoes) are just a side dish to the main meat dish. Even salads and “vegetarian” dishes may replace ham or sausage with tuna (which the Portuguese don’t seem to consider “meat”). Generally, a salad is just lettuce and tomato with salt, vinegar and olive oil. However, the Portuguese are very fond of their salad bars, and most cities have restaurants that serve Indian, Chinese, Mexican or Italian dishes. Be sure to mention that you are vegetarian and you will be able to find something that suits your preferences, although you may not thrive in the long run.

When you order a salad in many Portuguese restaurants, it will be sprinkled with salt. If you are watching your salt intake, or if you just don’t like the idea, you can ask for “sem sal” (without salt) or more radically “sem tempero” (without seasoning).

Some restaurants, especially in non-touristy areas, do not have a menu; you have to go in and ask and they will give you a list of some items to choose from. It is a good idea to have the price written down at the time of asking to avoid unpleasant surprises when the bill arrives. However, in this type of restaurant, the price for each of the options is very similar and varies between 5 and 10 euros per person.

Most restaurants will bring you a selection of snacks at the beginning of your meal – bread, butter, cheese, olives and other small bites – they always charge extra for these, around 5 euros. Don’t be afraid to ask how much they charge and ask them to take these things away if it’s too much or if you don’t plan to eat that much. This can be quite reasonable, but sometimes you can get ripped off. If you send them back anyway, make sure you check your bill at the end. The best restaurants can offer you more surprising, well-prepared and delicious snacks and charge more than 5 euros each for them; usually you can choose what you want and what you don’t, because in these cases the list is longer; and if the price is so high and you make an acceptable expense, decide not to order a main course.

If you have a kitchen, Portuguese grocery shops are surprisingly well stocked with lentils, vegetarian hamburgers, couscous and cheap fruit, vegetables and cheese. If you like hard cheese, try the “Queijo da Serra”, if you prefer soft cheese, try the Requeijão. Unfortunately, the success of “Queijo da Serra” has also allowed the spread of industrial and tasteless varieties that have no relation to reality. In the big shops, mostly located in the main cities, you will also find many unusual items, such as exotic fruits or drinks.

In some grocery shops and most supermarkets, the scales are in the produce aisle and not at the checkout. If you do not weigh your products and do not go to the checkout, you will probably be told Tem que os pesar or Tem que pesar, “tem que ser pesado” (“you have to weigh them”/you have to weigh them).

Portugal is famous for its great variety of amazing pastries, or pastéis (singular: pastel). The most popular pastry, pastéis de nata (called just natas further north), is a puff pastry filled with a custard cream and sprinkled with icing sugar (açúcar) and cinnamon (canela). Don’t forget to try them in any “pastelaria”. The best place is still the old Confeitaria dos Pastéis in Belém, although most “pastelarias” make a point of topping their “pastéis”. For once, all the guides are right. You may have to wait in line for a short while, but it will be worth it. Some people like them, some don’t.

The bolo de arroz (literally: “rice cake”) and the orange or carrot cakes are also pleasant, even if they are dry.

From the north, which is more egg-oriented, to the south, which is more almond-oriented, Portuguese pastries and sweet desserts are excellent and often surprising, even after many years.

In October/November, roasted chestnuts (castanhas) are sold on the streets of the towns by vendors wearing fingerless gloves to maintain their motorbike ovens: a delight!

The Portuguese love their thick, black espresso coffee (bica, in Lisbon) and regret it very much when they are abroad.

Special features of the individual regions

  • Aveiro: Special cake of the city: “Ovos Moles
  • Port wine: “Francesinha”, a special sandwich; “Tripas”, pork tripe.
  • Sintra: Queijadas de Sintra or the Transvestites
  • Mafra: special bread, Pão de Mafra; special cake of the city: “Fradinhos”.

Drinks in Portugal

When travelling in Portugal, the drink of choice is wine. Red wine is the locals’ favourite, but white wine is also popular. Portugal and Spain also have a variety of white wine that is actually green wine (Vinho Verde). It is a very crisp wine that is served cold and goes well with fish dishes. Drinking wine during a meal is very common in Portugal, and once the meal is over, people tend to drink and talk while they digest their food.

Port wine can be an aperitif or a dessert. The wine from the Alentejo may not be as well known worldwide as port, but it is just as good. Portugal also has other defined wine regions (regiões vinhateiras) that also produce some of the best wines, such as Madeira, Sado or Douro.

It can be difficult for people to abstain from drinking, even if they have very good reasons for doing so (like the behaviour mentioned above). Today, the excuse “I have to drive” works well. The easiest way is to explain that you can’t do it for health reasons. Portuguese are not as easily offended as others when it comes to refusing the obvious hospitality of a drink, but a lie like “I’m allergic” might illustrate a situation where a preference has to be explained over and over again in certain regions of Portugal; however, it won’t work in other regions, as obviously made-up excuses will mark you as unreliable (“I don’t want to, thank you” might work then). Alcohol consumption is almost considered socially intimate.

Beware of 1920 and aguardente (burning water), both have a strong effect.

The legal drinking age in Portugal is 16. For nightlife, Lisbon, Porto and Albufeira in the Algarve are the best choices as they have great entertainment options.

Port wine

Port is famous for the eponymous port wine, an alcohol fortified wine (20%) obtained by adding brandy to the wine before the fermentation is completed. According to European legislation, port wine can only be called such if the grapes are grown in the Douro Valley and the wine is brewed into port. The final product is strong, sweet and complex in flavour and can last 40 years or more if properly stored.

There are many different qualities of port, but the basic varieties are:

  • The vintage, the real bargain, aged 5 to 15 years in the bottle, can be very expensive in good years. Nevertheless, it is worth it.
  • Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV), simulated vintage, aged longer in cask, ready to drink. Nice if you have a budget.
  • Tawny, matured 10 to 40 years before bottling, characterised by a browner red colour and a slightly sweeter bouquet and aroma. As with any wine, the older it gets, the rounder and finer it becomes.
  • Ruby, the youngest and cheapest, with a deep red “ruby” colour.
  • White port is a little-known variety, and that’s a shame. There is a sweet and a dry version. The latter mixes well with tonic water and should be served chilled (if drunk alone) or with plenty of ice (with tonic), usually as an aperitif.

Vinho Verde

  • Another good choice is the ubiquitous vinho verde (green wine), produced mainly in the region north of Porto (the Minho). It is a light, dry and refreshing wine (about 9 to 9.5 per cent by volume) made from grapes specific to the region and has a relatively low sugar content. It is mainly white and sometimes slightly sparkling. Very good, and very affordable.

How To Travel To Portugal

By plane Portugal has five airports with regular international passenger traffic: Lisbon Portela Airport (IATA: LIS) is the main hub with numerous intercontinental connections to the Americas and Africa (mainly operated by the national airline TAP Portugal and its Star Alliance partners), as well as a dense network of connections in...

How To Travel Around Portugal

By train In Portugal, the train is generally slightly faster than the bus, but the connections are less frequent and cost more. The immediate surroundings of Lisbon and Porto are quite well served by suburban trains. Rail connections on Portugal's main line, i.e. between Braga and Faro, are good. Alfa-Pendular (fast)...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Portugal

Portugal is a member of the Schengen Agreement. There are normally no border controls between the countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most countries of the European Union and a few other countries.Before boarding an international flight or ship, there is usually an identity check. Sometimes...

Destinations in Portugal

Regions in Portugal Northern PortugalA historic region considered the birthplace of the nation. Includes the second largest city, Porto.Central PortugalThese include Coimbra, home to one of Europe's oldest universities, and also the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain in mainland Portugal, and most of the Extremadura coast.Lisbon RegionThe densely populated...

Weather & Climate in Portugal

Portugal is one of the hottest country in Europe. On the Portuguese continent, the average annual temperatures are around 15°C in the north and 18°C in the south. Madeira and the Azores, as might be expected, have a lower temperature range due to their island location, the former having...

Accommodation & Hotels in Portugal

The youth hostel network has a large number of hostels throughout the country . There are also many camping sites. Wild camping" (camping outside camping parks) is not allowed unless you have the landowner's permission. Holiday villas are another option to consider. The hotel offer is large and plentiful throughout...

Things To See in Portugal

Historic Cities and Architecture Once a powerful colonial nation, many living Portuguese towns still have an atmosphere reminiscent of Old World times. They are full of remarkable monuments and with a little effort you will discover traditional cafés and craftsmen whose families have run their businesses for generations. Make your way...

Things To Do in Portugal

Beaches The Portuguese beaches, almost completely surrounded by the sea, are well worth a visit. There are many activities on offer, from surfing to kite surfing, and during the summer months the most popular beaches offer activities on the sand, such as aerobics. If you're not the type to sweat...

Money & Shopping in Portugal

Currency, ATMs, exchange Portugal uses the euro. It is one of the many European countries that use this common currency. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in all countries. One euro is divided into 100 cents. The official symbol of the euro is € and its ISO code is EUR....

Traditions & Customs in Portugal

Language The Portuguese feel genuine pleasure in helping tourists, so don't be ashamed to ask for help. If you make the effort to speak a little Portuguese with locals, it can help you a lot. A large percentage of the young population speaks English and many Portuguese understand basic Spanish. Although...

Festivals & Holidays in Portugal

Holidays in Portugal DateEnglish namePortuguese nameNotes1 JanuarySolemnity of Mary, Mother of GodSolenidade de Santa Maria, Mãe de DeusmobileCarnivalCarnivalCarnival in Portugal is an annual celebration that ends on Shrove Tuesday (called Fat Tuesday in Madeira - Terça-feira Gorda in Portuguese), the day before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). It...

Language & Phrasebook in Portugal

The official language in Portugal is Portuguese (português). Portuguese is one of the main languages in the world today and ranks 6th in terms of the number of native speakers (about 240 million). It is the language with the largest number of speakers in South America, spoken by almost...

Culture Of Portugal

Portugal developed a specific culture while being influenced by different civilisations that crossed the Mediterranean and the European continent or were introduced when it played an active role in the era of discoveries. In the 1990s and 2000s (decade), Portugal modernised its public cultural institutions, in addition to the...

History Of Portugal

Ancient History: Pre-Celts and Celts Portugal's beginnings are shared with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula in south-western Europe. The name Portugal derives from the Romano-Celtic name Portus Cale. The region was settled by the Pre-Celts, giving rise to peoples such as the Gallaecans, Lusitanians, Celts and Cytes, visited by...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Portugal

Portugal is a relatively safe country to visit and a little common sense will get you far. There are no internal conflicts, no danger from terrorism, and violent crime is not a serious problem as it is usually confined to certain neighbourhoods and rarely committed randomly. However, there are certain...

Asia

Africa

South America

Europe

North America

Most Popular