Ah, Portugal. So many memories. I was lucky enough to live there from the summer of 2012 until the beginning of 2014, and what a whirlwind of a time that was. What was originally supposed to be a summer season working in Albufeira’s major bars turned into a whole new life in a new country with a new man, a new set of friends, and entirely new experiences to what I was used to. The time came when I felt I had to return to the UK and ‘sort my life out’ (a process which I now believe nobody ever truly achieves…) and here I am, nearly 3 years later. I do miss Portugal sometimes, especially the relaxing, laid-back lifestyle, scorching hot climate, and, of course, the cuisine. Portuguese cuisine is something that is not very widely reported on, and I often wish this wasn’t the case. Whether you’d like to learn a little more about Portuguese food, or if you’re heading there soon and want to know what you should eat, then here are some of the very best Portuguese dishes I miss the most.
Portuguese Dishes You Must Sample
More of a snack than a dish, a bifana at lunchtime with a ‘bica’ (Espresso) followed by a Pastel de Nata is one of the ways of Portuguese living that I miss the most. It doesn’t sound all that fabulous, to be honest, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! A bifana is essentially a thinly-sliced pork steak which is marinated and then cooked in a mixture of white wine and garlic. A roll of delicious Portuguese bread is toasted and filled with the cooked meat, and voila – you’ve got yourself a bifana. A little tip: squeeze a generous portion of mustard (the yellow kind) into the sandwich before eating. It doesn’t sound like all that delicious, does it? But trust me – a bifana is a daily ritual for most Portuguese people, since they’re actually strangely addictive.
Seabass (and practically all the other fish dishes)
Portuguese dishes is renowned for its top-notch seafood, especially along the Lisbon coast and the Algarve, as I experienced for myself. If you’re planning on taking a trip to the Port of Gal at some point in the New Year, then please, do me a favour and book yourself a table at a good quality fish restaurant to sample some of the best seafood you’ll ever eat. Although it differs from restaurant to restaurant, the majority of them are more or less the same. And just remember that even the lower-priced fish restaurants have just as good a quality as the more expensive ones. This could be argued with, but from personal experience I reckon this to be true. Most fish restaurants will offer a selection of Portuguese wines, including ‘vinho verde’ which can literally be translated to ‘green wine’ – this is exclusive to Portugal, so it’s worth giving it a try. Diners will be served olives, pate and Portuguese bread as an appetizer, followed by an optional starter, and then on to the main. My favourite Portuguese dishes has to be sea bass, which is typically served filleted on a plate with French fries (the Portuguese love them) and a side salad.
Cozido a Portuguesa
This traditional dish is perfect in the wintertime. Cozido a Portuguesa is essentially a hearty stew made from pork, blood sausage, chicken, beef and several boiled vegetables including carrots, cabbage and beans. I was lucky enough to have Cozido a Portuguesa made for me by an elderly Portuguese lady at her home in Sesimbra, and although I’m pretty sure she didn’t incorporate beef or chicken into the mixture, I do remember it being absolutely delicious. This dish, like most other Portuguese dishes, is usually served with Portuguese bread for dipping. Deeeee-lish.
Portugal’s national dish, bacalhau (which is really difficult to pronounce, may I add) is dried codfish, said to have more recipes than there are days in the year. I’ve left it till last, because bacalhau is quite a controversial topic amongst those from Portugal and those, well, not. Although the Portuguese seem to think it’s the best thing in the world, it’s very often the case that others simply do not share this view – me being one of them. Bacalhau is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. If you’ve ever walked into a Portuguese supermarket and got a whiff of some extremely strong-smelling fish, now you know what it is. I thought this national treasure deserved a place on this list because of how famous it is!