Everyone knows we do not joke around when it comes to food. Portuguese absolutely love meal times and they’re important at a social level. Most celebrations mean gatherings around the table, where food and wine always play a lead role.
Grandmothers are usually the ones responsible for the mouthwatering menus, from the appetisers to the decadent desserts. Main dishes are cooked without rushing following old family recipes and Sunday is the favourite day to have long lazy lunches.
Atlantic & Mediterranean roots
Portugal is located right on the westernmost tip of Europe, cornered against the wide blue Atlantic Ocean. For that reason gastronomy has a profound Atlantic influence and fish and seafood are abundant all year round. There is an endless list of marine delicacies but hake, sole, sardines, octopus, squids and clams are the most common ones. Curiously our famous cod comes from the northern seas, but the dry salted version is very much Portuguese.
Most dishes also have a strong mediterranean influence. Bread, olive oil and wine are always present across the country. We also use a lot of tomatoes and herbs, such as parsley, coriander, bay leaf and rosemary.
The secret for delicious dishes are good quality ingredients...
And luckily we have plenty! The climate and soil characteristics of the different regions allow us to cultivate different crops and raise cattle in a non-intensive way, generating excellent produce to work with. The abbreviation D.O.P. means a product comes from a specific area that is protected. Across the country there are many products with the D.O.P. stamp, which means you get to try stuff you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It's hard to pick our favourites, but the Serra da Estrela cheese, the azorian pineapple and the dry cured meats from Barrancos are definitely strong contenders.
All this buzz around food lies in the quality of its source and having such great quality raw materials allows us to create delicious and healthy dishes, either according to the traditional recipes or using more innovative techniques.
From north to south there are delicious typical treats worth trying. If you’re curious about them read our article Portuguese Dishes and Treats You Must Taste.
When it comes to desserts we owe our best ones to the nuns - that's why they are known as conventual sweets. They're the base for most of the traditional and regional sweet treats you can find across the country.
Each location has a couple of typical ones, which make Portugal a champion when it comes to desserts. Every single local bakery has a wide variety of sweets on display and we dare you to find one where you can't find a pastel de nata!
The conventual sweets are quite rich and pretty much all have yolks (the nuns had plenty since they used the whites to iron their vests) and sugar, which explains why they are so golden and lush.
Specially during festivities tables are full of delicious desserts. To find out the ones we have for Christmas check this article.
Modern Food Scene
Lately there has been a boom of contemporary and modern restaurants, particularly in the big cities and in the Algarve. In 2018 the Michelin Guide awarded stars to 23 different restaurants, which has definitely put Portugal on the foodies map.
Many of the contemporary chefs draw inspiration from other cuisines, such as Southeast Asian, South American and Indian, and creatively play and challenge our palate. The modern techniques, curious textures and exotic mixes are really interesting, particularly when they elevate traditional Portuguese flavours.
There is also a clear interest in pushing boundaries and cool initiatives such as pop up's, workshops, food trucks and gastronomy debates keep flourishing. These efforts are broadening our choices and convincing even the most sceptic that it is possible to eat the world without travelling far.
Portugal manages to merge old and new in a quite harmonious way and not only when it comes to food. Check out our article Portugal is Old but Gold to find out how.
Portuguese food really is a force to be reckoned. If you're planning on visiting the country and would like us to include taylor-made foodie experiences, that would be the cherry on top of the cake! Get in touch and together we'll come up with your own foodie itinerary. In the meantime follow us on instagram and get your inspiration going :)
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