Portuguese food is rich and varied, with a few constants mixed in. I couldn’t sum it up in a single article, no matter how hard I tried, so instead I decided to tell you about 7 iconic and delicious dishes you absolutely must try if you visit Portugal:
Salted cod forms the basis for hundreds of different Portuguese dishes, and its ubiquitous in both supermarkets and restaurants.
Alheira and Morcela
Two kinds of sausage that are common appetizers in Portugal. Alheira is very unique and was invented by the Jews during the Portuguese Inquisition (which I’m guessing was just as ugly as the Spanish version). It’s made with any meat that’s not pork, sometimes several different kinds mixed together along with bread crumbs. As such the texture is a bit different than traditional sausages. It’s a bit crumbly and nutty tasting, and usually served fried.
Morcela you may be more familiar with. It’s essentially blood sausage. In Portugal they typically slice it thin and fry it up so that it’s both crunchy and juicy. Even if you don’t think you like blood sausage, it’s worth a try.
It’s usually served as an appetizer or side, not integrated with the main meal.
Most cheese in Portugal is made with sheep or goats milk which gives it a rich, nutty flavor. There are 15 official varieties, usually coming from specific regions of the country like in Italy.
Prego no Pao (Steak Sandwich)
Thin steak pounded with garlic and served with onions on a crusty bun. This steak is served rare and a popular bar snack around the country.
Another popular sandwich option is the Francesinha. Unlike the sandwich above, this one is extravagant, and best served in the city that invented it- Porto.
Each restaurant makes theirs a little differently but the basics are a sandwich made of ham, steak or sausage (or some combination), covered with melted cheese and a tomato-beer sauce. Usually fries come alongside for sopping up the mess. It’s a monster, messy, food challenge kind of thing, best taken when you are super-duper hungry.
Arroz de Pato
A lot of Portuguese main meals are very meat and potato centric, but duck rice is also popular and common. It’s simply fragrant rice cooked with shredded roast duck and chorizo. It’s similar to Chinese fried rice in it’s consistency and appeal, but the flavors are more rustic.
Pastéis de Nata
Portugal is a country with excellent pastries, but none stand out quite as much as their national pastry, the pastél de nata. A small tart made mainly with egg yolk custard, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Biting into one is a revelation: the top is crispy, the inside is creamy and the crust is chewy. They’re rich, but small, simple but obsession forming.