Back home, we don´t eat out that often, but when travelling we love to taste something local or something we never tried before (of course there are some borders at experimenting ;)). Even though we often had apartments or rooms with a kitchen on our trip around Portugal, we almost never cooked by ourselves this time – simply because finding a restaurant was so easy and the food was just so yummy! I have to say the prices were sometimes higher than expected, but never mind, the good taste made up for it ;). So what did we eat?
BREAKFASTS & SNACKS
If you have a sweet tooth then there is nothing to fear about, but if like me, you prefer something salty you might have to put more effort into finding a bakery or a coffee shop that has a warm toast on the menu. So I gave up and ended up eating these (I have to say really delicious) breakfast sweets ;).
PASTEIS DE NATA
And here it is, the famous Pasteis de Nata, also called PASTEL DE BELEM – a small egg tart pastry which sweetness I had no problem with. Sometimes you get them warm and cowered in powder cinnamon (mmm). They cost around 0,5€ which makes you buy many ;).
The recipe was created by the Catholic monks in Lisbon´s Jeronimos Monastery which is situated in a town part called Belem (therefore also the name) and was later on sold to a local sugar refinery whose owners opened the today famous Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem. There is a large shop today, with nice traditional tiles and even if you decide to go in you might face a long queue! They do sell them all over the country, but it´s still a special feeling to try them at this original place.
There are many other sweets and cakes and we tried some of them, but I have to say nothing was as good as the egg tarts ;).
I know, I know – ice cream is everywhere! We tried one special one though, it was made with GINJINHA (also known as Ginja), which is a special Portuguese liqueur made of ginja berries (a type of cherry). It is very common to drink a shot after lunch in Lisbon, Obidos or around the mountainous area Serra de Estrela.
OLIVES, DIPS & SPREADS
My kind of food – yummy olives, tuna spread, local olive oil and home made bread! We had it as a starter or for dinner at the balcony. We can always eat olives ;).
SEAFOOD POTATO BALL
These fried seafood balls are a hit in Porto and there are many varieties. They all have a filling, which is wrapped with mashed potatoes which hold everything together. When the ball is done it is fried, simple as that. Maybe the most traditional ones are filled with codfish and are called “PASTEL DE BACALHAU”. Other varieties include shrimps, crab, tuna or other fish – you can also get a meat version.
LUNCHES & DINNERS
Lunch or dinner dishes usually have a Mediterranean feel to it and Portugal is most famous for its great seafood. Lucky me ;). Some of the meals we ate we knew already but there was usually something different – either different spices or the whole preparation process was new to us. So here are some of our plates from the trip.
A CATAPLANA is actually a special cookware, traditionally made of copper (nowadays the aluminium versions are more common) and shaped like a shell which opens and closes to keep the food warm. A delicious seafood stew cooked in these bowls appears on the menus (especially in Algarve) under the same name.
Inside there is mixed seafood, cooked potatoes, onions and tomatoes – the most famous one is made with clams. It is truly yummy and enough for 2 persons. It will cost between 38 and 50€, depends on the ingredients and restaurant.
Octopus, if it´s done the right way is one of my favourites. The best is in a special oven we call “podpeka” on Slovenian, but also a salad as a starter is usually a good idea. This one was made in an oven and it was really good, soft just like it should be!
I love prawns and eat it often, also at home, so I really tried them in many different sauces and with different herbs – but non like these here! We found a cosy restaurant in Sagres (Algarve coast) which was packed with local people having family lunches and many had this dish on the table, so I figured it had to be good. They had a very special taste, I still have not figured it out what it was and maybe it´s meant to keep it the chef´s secret ;).
LISBON is all about sardines! Not only you get it often for lunch, you also see them on postcards, as magnets for your fridge, you can buy pillow-shaped sardines… you get the picture. They really love them here and even have a Sardines festival! Not quite my favourite though, but when in Rome ;). If you order a fish plate for 1 or 2 persons expect to see them there.
The famous Portuguese BACALHAU (codfish) is eaten throughout the country and there are so many varieties that you can sometimes think you are eating a different fish! I know it mostly as a spread and almost never eat it as a fish fillet, well here I did!
This one was done traditional way and I tried it in PORTO – with green pepper, olives, fresh onions, cooked eggs and baked potatoes on the side – the taste was very specific, special and not a combination I´ve eaten before.
BLACK SEAFOOD PASTA
Would you eat BLACK SPAGHETTI? No? Well, I say why not! I´m a fan of black risotto, but the spaghetti version was a first for me! The pasta is flavoured with squid ink, hence the black colour, otherwise there was relatively less of that specific taste that I´m used to from the black risotto. Still, a great dish to try!
FRIED TUNA WITH ONIONS
When I read “fried tuna” I thought to myself how strange must this taste! But then I went for it as it was a speciality of the restaurant we sat down at in Nazare at the Atlantic coast. Turned out it was absolutely delicious! The two tuna steaks were first marinated, then fried and topped with grilled onions.
The picture is maybe not doing it enough justice, but it was truly a spectacular dish! This was also the cheapest lunch (2 mains, a portion of salad + French fries, water and a small bottle of wine, coffee and a glass of port wine each for just 35€ total).
We know sea bass from home and the way my dad makes it in the oven tastes delicious so I was avoiding to eat it here – Gin did though, tasted good ;). They serve it always cut in half so that it´s much thinner than how we´re used to prepare it and it looks pretty much different when served ;).
As you can see, we mostly ate seafood. Gin ate meat a couple of times and Portugal does have also good meat dishes, especially some specialities with the famous CHORIZO SAUSAGE. They also have great tasting CHEESE which we ate often in the evenings together with olives. If you are a vegetarian (who does not eat fish) it might be a bit harder, but at least you can order a salad pretty much everywhere ;). All in all we had wonderful meals!
And how do the restaurants look like? Well, often like this! So charming and cosy that you almost feel like at home ;).
Portugal has soooo many good wines! I did not drink many of them before, so except for Porto wine I did not really know any. As we were in Madeira 2 years ago, I´m sure we had some there, but could not recall which. Anyway, Porto is the most famous one and if you are at least a bit into wines you should really do a WINE TASTING.
We did not do it in Porto town (many visit one of the city cellars for a tour and wine tasting) – we did that in the DOURO VALLEY (Porto wine actually originates from here and is only called Porto wine because it was traded and sold in Porto town, before the good roads were built in the valley), one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Suddenly there were like 9 bottles in front of me and wow some of them were really amazing. And dangerous, the alcohol % are quite high so take care how much you drink ;).
Although I like a good glass of wine, on the beach a cold beer is obviously a better choice! Especially combined with a sunset ;). In Portugal there are 3 native brands, SAGRES, SUPER BOCK and CORAL.