There are a lot of delicious dishes from around the world, but Portuguese cuisine really does stand out as being something special. A lot of people head to Portugal in search of food and drink, and the country does not disappoint. Portuguese cuisine is a unique blend of flavours, influences and techniques that have evolved over centuries. Its history and geography have played a significant role in shaping its character, resulting in a cuisine that is distinct from any other. From seafood delicacies to hearty stews and sweet pastries, Portuguese cuisine has something for everyone. You can even head to Portugal with children and fussy eaters, knowing that they won’t struggle to find something to enjoy. In this blog, we will explore what makes Portuguese cuisine different from any other.
What Makes Portuguese Cuisine Special?
History and Geography – Portugal’s location on the Atlantic Ocean has been central to its cuisine. The country’s rich seafood traditions date back centuries and continue to be an essential part of its cuisine. Codfish, in particular, is a staple in Portuguese cuisine and is prepared in a variety of ways. Bacalhau is perhaps the most popular dish and is said to have over 365 ways of being prepared, one for every day of the year. The Portuguese have also developed an extensive array of seafood dishes, including grilled sardines, octopus, and shrimp, which are typically cooked with garlic, olive oil, and herbs. The country’s history has also played a significant role in shaping its cuisine. Portugal was a powerful maritime nation during the Age of Discovery, and its explorers brought back a variety of spices, ingredients, and cooking techniques from their journeys. These new flavours and techniques blended with the country’s existing culinary traditions, resulting in a unique cuisine that continues to evolve today.
Influences – Portuguese cuisine has been influenced by a variety of cultures over the centuries. The Moors, who ruled parts of Portugal for over 500 years, brought with them exotic spices such as saffron, cinnamon, and cumin. These spices are still used in many Portuguese dishes today, such as cozido, a stew made with meats and vegetables. The Portuguese also had a significant influence on the cuisine of their former colonies, including Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and Goa. Portuguese explorers introduced new crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, and chilli peppers to these regions, which became an essential part of their culinary traditions. For example, Brazilian feijoada, a bean and meat stew, is believed to have originated from the Portuguese cozido.
Traditional Dishes – Portuguese cuisine is known for its hearty and flavorful dishes. Some of the most popular include bacalhau – salt cod prepared in a variety of ways, such as baked with potatoes and cream or pan fried with onions and peppers – and caldo verde – a soup made with kale, potatoes, and a smoked sausage. Cozido – a stew made with a variety of meats and vegetables – and francesinha – a sandwich made with bread, ham, sausage, and steak, covered in melted cheese and a spicy tomato sauce – are also popular. Of course, we have to mention pastéis de nata – a custard filled pastry that is one of Portugal’s most famous exports.
Regional Variations – Portugal’s different regions have their culinary traditions, which have developed over centuries. The north is known for its hearty meat dishes, such as cozido, while the south is known for its seafood and olive oil-based dishes. The island of Madeira is famous for its unique wine and honey cake, while the Azores are known for their fresh cheese and seafood. This means that the food you experience will differ as you move around the country, and there is always something new to enjoy. Regardless of whether you’re in the Algarve or Faro, Lisbon or Porto, you won’t struggle to find a regional dish to embrace.
Wine – Portugal is also renowned for its wine, which has been produced for over 2,000 years. The country has a wide variety of grape varieties and produces a range of wines, from light and refreshing whites to full bodied reds. Portugal is also known for its fortified wines, such as port and Madeira, which are popular around the world. It’s the ideal place to go if you enjoy sitting back, relaxing and enjoying a glass of wine in the sunshine. Even if you’re not a huge fan of wine, the vineyards and wineries are beautiful to explore, and there are a lot of day trips available.
There’s Something for Everyone in Portugal’s Restaurants
One of the great things about Portugal is the array of restaurants on offer. As well as traditional Portuguese cuisine, you can enjoy foods from around the world. There are a lot of international establishments, such as those that sell pizzas and burgers, and even those that serve Indian, Thai and Chinese food. It really doesn’t matter what you are looking for in a restaurant in Portugal, you will find exactly what you are looking for. This is especially true in the Algarve, which is a part of Portugal that caters to tourists and holidaymakers. In a bid to appeal to a wide market, the Algarve has a range of restaurants for you to choose from, including fast food and takeaway options.
When we say that Portuguese cuisine is unique, we really do mean it. Not only Portuguese food itself, but the range of vast offerings available in regions that are popular with tourists.