The Portuguese custom of bringing appetisers to your table before you order can cause controversy to an unsuspecting diner. The items brought to the table are not complimentary. Typically a waiter will tempt you with bread, fish patés, butter, cheeses and olives, yet a good couvert can be an introduction to local produce.
This crusty Portuguese bread made with cornflour, rather than wheat flour, due to the conditions in the Minho that favour growing corn. The loaves have a distinctive crackle on the top, as the bread prooves.
Made in the mountainous region of Serra da Estrela and attained from ewe's milk over winter months. It's matured for at least 30 days and formed into irregular wheels. It originates from the 12th century and has PDO status granted by the EU.
The chouriço is one of the most diverse sausages of Portuguese tradition. Various types can be found in the North of Portugal. Generally, the most common varieties of chouriço come from pork meat and fat — often from local pig breeds and seasoned with red pepper paste, wine, and garlic, then left to dry and smoked for a few days or weeks. Darker chouriço's are blooded variations.
Soup for the Portuguese is an everyday intake, sometimes even more than once. It's how they consume most of their vegetables. Main courses will arrive with chips, rice or both! Vegetables are ordered separately as a side dish (pratinho) unless you have soup for a starter. Fish and shellfish are also popular ingredients for soups, as is the addition of rice and pasta. Bread based soups known as Açordas are believed to originate from Arabian influences.
Although found on menus all over the country, this iconic Portuguese soup originates from the Minho Region. Made from shredded Cove Galega cabbage cut very finely. When Napoleon's troops arrived in the area in the 19th century, they thought the locals were eating soup made from grass. The broth itself consists of onion, garlic, potatoes, and carrots. Extra flavour is added from a slice or two of chouriço.
A hearty bread-based broth traditionally eaten during Lent with lightly seasoned salted cod, tomatoes and egg.
The Spanish have their Tapas, the Portuguese have their Petiscos, they are similar in portion size. These small dishes can be as simple as a platter of cured meats and cheeses to stews, grilled fish, amongst other delicacies. Often consumed in the afternoon as a compliment to a drink and are a great way to explore the range of regional flavours.
The octopus is boiled and is usually served with diced onions and parsley, tossed with lashes of olive oil. This octopus salad is refreshing on a warm day and tastes as good as it looks. Once it's arrived at your table, season it with salt, pepper, and vinegar to suit your pallet.
These small white clams are so fresh they don't need any additional flavours. They're simply cooked in garlic butter with a little bit of coriander or parsley and a splash of lemon juice. Mop up the sauce with crusty bread and wash it down with a chilled crisp white Vinho Verde – it's what life's all about.
These salt cod fritters are a delicious typical Portuguese petisco made from a combination of cod with a dough that contains flour, egg, chopped parsley and onions. Tasty on their own or with a side dish of rice.
This traditional Portuguese dish consists of small cubes of fried beef in a light beer-gravy, garlic, oil, chillies, and mustard. The dish is usually accompanied by a few glasses of cold beer and bread for soaking up the sauce. Pica-Pau literally means woodpecker, referring to how it's eaten by picking out the pieces of meat with a toothpick.
More than a pork sandwich… much, much more. Slices of lightly toasted bread are stuffed with slow-roasted pork with gooey Queijo Serra da Estrela mountain cheese and topped with sauce. Although served all over the city, the Sandes de Pernil originates from the A Casa Guedes eatery in the downtown area and best eaten on the terrace opposite the Jardim Marques de Oliveira park.
The Portuguese have taken the simple hot dog and have made it their own. A toasted baguette is stuffed with two delicious local sausages and melted cheese. Then topped with butter and a spicy sauce before being sliced into more bite-sized morsels. Now found all over Porto, the birthplace of the Cachorrinho is the Cervejaria Gazela in the Batalha district. Eat on its own or with a plate of batatas fritas and a cold Superbock.
As with most parts of Portugal, fish is a popular mainstay in restaurants. Along the Cais da Ribeira quayside a dozen largely touristy fish restaurants can be found under the arches, with more modest places hidden in the back streets.
If fish dishes are your thing, from Porto you can take a wooden ferry to the neighbouring village of Afurada or the metro up to Matosinhos. Choose one of the local tascas to enjoy an atmospheric plate of freshly caught seafood in traditional surroundings. The stylish oceanfront neighbourhood of Foz do Douro offers up more tantalising fish restaurants, some with gorgeous ocean views, as well as the Michelin-starred Pedro Lemos.
The Mercado de Matosinhos supplies the region’s restaurants with the freshest fish: mackerel, sardines, tuna, black swordfish. In this local farmer’s market, vendors sell all sorts of seafood.
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a hearty and tasty casserole of bacalhau, potatoes, eggs, olives and onion drizzled with olive oil.
A simple dish of roasted octopus and squashed roasted potatoes (Batatas a Murro). This dish is moistened with garlic-infused olive oil with a sprinkling of coriander or parsley.
The belly-busting Francesinha (“little Frenchie”) is a layered sandwich comprised of steak, sausage and ham between toasted bread, covered with melted cheese and a peppery tomato-and-beer sauce. Introduced in the 1960s, it’s a twist on the French Croque Monsieur. Each restaurant will have its own personal twist on this iconic dish with its own secret sauce recipe. Traditionally served with a plate of chips and a cold beer, with or without a fried egg on top.
The local speciality is tripas (tripe), cooked à moda do Porto (a thick stew with chouriço and white beans), which has given the residents of Porto the nickname of Tripeiros. Legend has it that when Porto’s favourite son, Prince Henry the Navigator, set out on his explorations, the city slaughtered all of its mature livestock to send along with his crew, leaving the populace with only the offal.
If you're lucky to see this on the menu without having to pre-order it days in advance, I would strongly recommend this roasted kid dish. Can be served with roasted potatoes or rice. Sometimes it comes in a port wine sauce.
This is not a dish for the faint-hearted, but rather for those who consider themselves an intrepid food traveller – Cozido a Portuguesa. It’s a stew of potatoes, vegetables, and a variety of meat products. The meat normally includes black sausage as well as various offal.
Like its Spanish counterpart, a Chouriço is a cured smoked sausage with pimentão giving it distinctive smoky and red characteristics. A popular way to prepare chouriço is partially sliced and flame-cooked over alcohol at the table (chouriço à bombeiro). Special glazed earthenware dishes with a lattice top are used for this purpose.
A form of smoke-cured pork sausage seasoned with garlic and paprika often found in Feijoada.
Traditionally but not necessarily contains garlic and is made with meats other than pork (usually veal, duck, chicken, quail or rabbit) and bread. Invented by Portuguese Jews as a way to deceive the Portuguese Inquisition since their religion didn't allow them to eat pork.
Hams that have been smoked and age dried, served sliced straight off the bone. Popular in the region around Monção.
Made of pork loin, Paio is a dry-cured sausage seasoned with garlic, salt, and capsicum pepper and smoked.
Morcela is a traditional black sausage from Guarda yet is popular throughout Northern Portugal.
Literally translated as "bacon from heaven", pork lard is used in baking this delicious almond cake. It is truly a heavenly treat. It's derived from Guimarães Toucinho do céu is an egg-based sponge that is devoured at festivals.
Pastries with pumpkin and sweetened egg yolk filling from the Braga district.
There are many types of Queijadinhas, but traditionally they're prepared with grated coconut and cheese, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, butter and egg yolks..
A convent recipe originating from Braga, which combines typical ingredients, including eggs, cinnamon, bacon, Port wine, caramel or sugar, before being set in a mould.