Food and travel go hand in hand, it is inevitable that wherever we go in the world, we will always be tempted to try local delicacies and foods that are completely new to us. Because of this, we decided to start our very own ‘Gourmet Traveller’ blog series and today, we are exploring the culinary delights and traditional dishes that are on offer in the city of Lisbon, in Portugal.
Portuguese cuisine varies across the country, but one thing you will notice throughout is the abundance of fresh fish and spices. The use of spice was a habit that then became a tradition in the colonial age, when Prince Henry the Navigator ordered his ships to bring back as many exotic fruits and vegetables from the New World as possible. Fish has always been a staple of the Portuguese diet as its waters are rich and full and in Lisbon’s case, just outside the door.
So, what should you be looking for during your time in the city? These are our top picks of foods you can’t leave Lisbon without trying…
Bacalhau ã Brãis
Bacalhau is undoubtebly Portugal’s favourite fish and you’ll likely find it on the menu in 99% of restaurants in Lisbon. Bacalhau ã brãis is simply shredded codfish, fried potato, onion and scrambled eggs. It’s a great comfort food and is often topped with black olives. Bacalhau is also served in many other delicious dishes, in fact, it is said that it can be served in up to 365 different ways, but this dish is a must-try.
Carne de Porco Alentejana
This dish is a bit like the Portuguese version of surf and turf and includes pork, marinated in a white wine, paprika, garlic and cilantro sauce before being fried and then having clams added. Potatoes are also usually added before the dish is served. We’re told that it does taste much better than it sounds.
Pasteis de Belem (Pasteis de nata)
These are small, custard-like tarts and you can’t visit Lisbon without trying one. The original ‘Pasteis de Belem’ is only available from Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, a celebrated bakery on the western edge of the city. The tarts here are made from a secret recipe that has been guarded for more than 200 years. Everywhere else in Portugal, they are known as Pasteis de nata and have a very similar flavour. They are delicious and best eaten when still warm.
Caldo Verde is Portugal’s favourite soup and it is known in England as Kale Soup. You will find it on the menu in any restaurant that specialises in dishes from the Minho province in the north of the country, which is where the dish originated. Generally thickened with potatoes and hit with chourico to add extra flavour, this hearty broth is both delicious and nutritious.
Alheira de Mirandela
Also known as just ‘Alheira’ they may look like pork sausages, but there is more going on than meets the eye. These often include veal, chicken, duck and rabbit and are compacted together using bread and then smoked. It is an unusual sausage that was created in Portugal by Jews, when they were forced to convert to Christianity. If you try this in a restaurant during your visit to Lisbon, you’ll likely find that it is fried or grilled and served with chips or rice – some places will also serve with vegetables. Another version of the sausage ‘Alheira de Caca’ is made using only game meat.
Sardines are a huge part of the diet in Lisbon and are celebrated every year in June during All Saints Week. Often the sardines are grilled and served on warm bread. They are delicious and much larger than the sardines we are used to at home.
Polvo ã lagareiro
Octopus isn’t for everyone, but if you like this seafood option, then you must try Polvo a lagareiro. Octopus tentacles are roasted in olive oil, with salt and garlic added for more flavour. Once cooked the tentacles are served with ‘batatas a murro’ (punched potatoes) which are boiled and then also cooked in olive oil and garlic. It’s a delicious dish and is representative of the Mediterranean diet.
Cozida ã Portuguesa
This is a stew that represents the tradition, flavour and comfort of Portuguese food and one that grandma herself would be happy to make for you. Also known as ‘rich mans stew’, it originally became popular in rural villages where money was tight and families cooked with whatever they could get their hands on. It usually includes pork, chicken and beef, and vegetables such as potatoes, beans and carrots.
We have several sailings in 2018 that include visits to Lisbon and we would be thrilled to welcome you onboard for one of them (or maybe even two). They include Mediterranean Odyssey, European Connoisseur and The Three Rivers. Special offers are currently available on all of these sailings.