Follow this handy list and the best part about Portugal might just end up being the food.
Portugal is known for a lot of incredible sights, but generally, food is not always the first thing mentioned. It might be because Portuguese food appeals to a very specific set of tastes. But most likely, it’s really great dishes are not commonly heard of. So the new traveler is not always well versed in what to order. Well traveler, fear no more! Follow this handy list and the best part about Portugal might just end up being the food.
Bolos de Arroz: Bolos de Arroz look like elongated muffins with straight crystallized sugar on the top…which is sort of what they are, except the dough is much thicker than a regular muffin. They have paper wrapped around the middle and bottom, which you have to peel off. The paper keeps the cake denser and makes it both a delicious and filling breakfast (best served when dipped into coffee).
A gooey croissant: I’ve had chocolate croissants all over Europe as they are one of my favorite go-to breakfasts on the run. But some of the best I’ve had were in Portugal. Advice? Find a bakery that looks really local and fresh and you’re almost guaranteed to find a great croissant.
Soup: I know this sounds like a strange thing to recommend but the Portuguese are masters at soup. Every single soup we had was amazing and usually made out of a really interesting combination. Find a restaurant that looks small and local and ask for the menu of the day. Usually, there will be a great soup coupled with a delicious fish. My personal favorite was a spinach and ricotta cream soup we had coupled with the baked codfish.
Photo: Flickr/Zaldy Camerino
For a snack:
Cheese, cheese, cheese, and more cheese: I cannot discuss enough how fabulous Portugese homemade cheese is. You can find it as an appetizer at almost any local restaurant and I HIGHLY recommend taking advantage of it. The best cheese I’ve ever had in my life was at a restaurant by the Lisbon cathedral. Be forewarned though, the cheese they put on the table at the beginning of your meal is not free so enjoy it, but know that you will have to pay for it later.
Bacalhau: Codfish. And the way it is generally prepared may not appeal to everyone’s tastebuds but it certainly appealed to mine. Bacalhau, when done incorrectly, has a very strong flavor because it is traditionally a mixture of codfish, onions, potatoes, eggs and olive oil (sometimes with olives too). If done correctly, the flavors are subtle and create an irresistible and complementary blend.
I’ve eaten bacalhau several times in my life and ordering it is generally a hit or a miss. But I found that in Portugal, because it is their specialty dish, 9.5 times out of ten it was a major hit. I enjoyed it so much that it became the safe choice – if we didn’t know what to order, we ordered bacalhau.
Pastéis de Nata: Dessert equivalent of bacalhau when it comes to traditional Portuguese cuisine. They have pastry shell exteriors and are filled with a thick cream. The most famous ones can be found by the tower of Belém and are called Pasteis de Belém. Many people are defensive about the fact that Pastéis de Belém are different from Pastéis de Nata but I personally thought they tasted pretty similar.
*There is also another variation, which can be found in the city of Sintra called Pastéis de Sintra, and they are my favorite. They are made with a thicker, cheesier, cream and cinnamon. A+.
Photo: Flickr/Christine und Hagen Graf
Finally, for those of you of legal age, Portugal has the best digestif that I have ever had. Ginjinha or Ginja is a sour cherry liquor, often served in a mini chocolate cup. You can find little chocolate shots at any time of the afternoon for a euro or drink the cherry liquor on its own in a small glass after dinner. Either way, you will be wanting to buy it at the airport, I promise.