Portuguese Gastronomy

Portugal is a country of tradition, of landscape wealth, of friendly and hospitable people. And in this North, that is now truly opening its genuineness to the world, one of the highlights goes to the culinary wealth, in an incredible offer of the most varied dishes based on the Mediterranean diet's tradition, so wealthy and increasingly in vogue in the four corners of the World. We are in the masteries of garlic and olive oil. Of vegetables. Of the marvelous fresh fish, prepared in a so typical and unique way. Of the strongest dishes, of the meat that "pull the wagon". And still of the "tripeiro pride" and of the peculiarities that, generally, all the regional cuisines contain.

With this guide we only intend to give a general idea of the predominant dishes in the regions of Porto, Douro and Northern Portugal (many of them cross the whole country), and we inevitably have to start by the Tripas à Moda do Porto, a regional dish born in the city of Porto, made with various sorts of meat, tripe (dobrada), enchidos and white bean, dating back to the Portuguese discoveries, in the 15th century. The Prince D. Henrique needed to supply the ships for the Ceuta's conquest (1415) and he asked for food to the Porto's residents. They gave all the meat they had better, leaving only the offal and the tripe, having to survive with it. Thus appeared the Tripas à Moda do Porto, which have not only perpetuated to the present day but also became the city's most characteristic dish. It's also due to this dish that, since then, the people of Porto proudly call themselves tripeiros ("tripe eaters").

Another gastronomic wonder of the North and across the country is the fish, abundant along the over 800 km of coastline and in a wide variety. You can eat good fish throughout Portugal, but never as well as in the fishing towns and villages, like Matosinhos, for instance. The preparation couldn't be simpler: grilled, which only elevates the fresh flavor, of sea, to be afterwards flavored with the delicious Portuguese virgin oil.

The fish cooked in Portugal is increasingly recognized by the consumer, by the gastronomes, and by the great international chefs who visit the country and take to their restaurants our sea products, which also include, obviously, the shellfish and the octopus, just to give a few examples. The octopus is a very appreciated delicacy in Portugal, and it can also be prepared in a thousand ways: roasted over coals, baked in the oven, breaded fillets with rice of the same, in green sauce, cozido com todos (cooked with all) or à Galega with chili - an influence of nuestros hermanos of the North. Not to mention the famous stewed octopus of the Azores. The octopus stands, to the Portuguese people, between the meat and the fish.

The Ameijôas à Bolhão Pato is another Portuguese dish worthy of mention. It's a clam dish, originated in Southern Portugal but widespread throughout the country and a true delight.

Between the fish and the meat we also have the "King" the cod, the Portuguese's "faithful friend", sun-dried and salty and which can equally be prepared from hundreds of different ways. The sun-dried cod is a gift from Portugal to the world and its splendor might be reached with the roast over coals, though there are some purists who prefer it boiled with all (potatoes, cabbage, carrots and other vegetables, and eggs).

There is cod dishes for all tastes, like the Porto’s recipe Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, conceived by the namesake cook (deceased in 1926) and who, with the ingredients of the typically Portuguese tidbit, codfish cakes, created a new recipe just adding milk: cod cut into small slices, roasted in the oven with potatoes. There’s also the famous Bacalhau à Narcisa, which has born in the Braga's homonymous restaurant, being therefore also known as Bacalhau à Braga or à Minhota. The recipe consists in a cod’s slice fried in the same oil with potato crisps and onions (onions into rings). The Bacalhau á Zé do Pipo is another very common recipe, also originating of Porto. Of Zé do Pipo authorship, owner of a traditional restaurant of the city, it was created in the 1960s, having soon won a culinary contest. It's prepared with a good slice of cod, mayonnaise and mashed potatoes. After cooking, the ingredients are cook au gratin in the oven. There are still the cod fritters, and we could go on for pages, talking about the "faithful friend", but we leave here a good sample. To get an idea of its real dimension in the Portuguese cuisine, there's a book with 1000 cod's recipes...

Returning to the meat, the Rojões à Moda do Minho is a dish that overflowed the province's borders and is nowadays eaten all over the North. This dish consists of pieces of pork without bones, but with some fat, browned in lard - blood of stewed pork, fried floured tripe and pieces of pork liver, in addition to potatoes and chestnuts, also browned. It may be served with Sarrabulho's Rice – originating from Ponte de Lima and made with various types of meat (pork, beef and chicken), pork's blood and several spices - or with Papas de Sarrabulho. These are made with pork's blood, chicken and pork meat, salami, ham, smoked pork, spicy sausage, cumin, lemon, and bread or cornmeal. They are usually only made in the winter because that's when the pig's slaughter is made and because it's a very strong dish, more attractive in cold weather. Still with blood, but of chicken, there is the famous Arroz de Cabidela, or "pica-no-chão", as it's known in the North, from where the dish, with several centuries, originates. The chicken is stewed, and the slightly vinegary blood is added to the rice, in order to get its very distinctive and refined taste. Then, a typical dish of Miranda do Douro, which you can also find all over the North of Portugal, is the Posta à Mirandesa, a morsel of Mirandesa cow's meat roasted in the live coal with a pinch of salt and accompanied with baked potatoes. There is still a strong tradition of baked in the wood oven, ranging from veal to pork loin, passing by the lamb and by the famous suckling pig, whose recipe originates from the central region of the country, in Bairrada, but that can be enjoyed throughout Portugal.

Back to a typical Porto's dish, created in the middle of the last century, we have the inevitable Francesinha, so named because it was inspired by the French sandwich croque-monsieur/ croque-madame. The Porto's inhabitant who created it, a former emigrant in France, adapted it to the Portuguese taste, adding the characteristic spicy and refined sauce. It became a gastronomy’s icon of the city, and nowadays the Francesinha can be eaten all over the country.

The Portuguese desserts are to die for. From the conventual sweets to the traditional pastries, passing by the excellence of the pastry and confectionery, there is no shortage of reasons to don’t leave the table without a sweet mouth.

The Abade dos Priscos pudding, originating from Braga, is one of the Portuguese desserts' ex-libris, compensating the great caloric wealth with the sublime taste experience. And from the convents, from the nuns' blessed hands, there is a whole parade of delights that feed our souls, like the Papos-de-Anjos or the Barrigas de Freira. The Pastel de Nata (Custard Tarts) and the Queijadas (Cheese cakes) are other major Portuguese contributions so there is more happiness in the world. The traditional Leite Creme (creamy milk), Aletria (vermicelli), Pão-de-Ló (Sponge-Cake) in all variations or the Rabanadas (French toasts) are also true gifts of sweetness to the palate. All of them, sweet or salty, properly watered with the Portuguese wine's excellence, a secret that's becoming increasingly less secret and that is also conquering the world.

The Portuguese cuisine offers a myriad of flavors in a very healthy diet, which includes some pretty strong dishes but that are well worth being appreciated. However, to those who don't like new palate's experiences, there is a vast and complete offer, of high quality, of restaurants with an international menu, to meet all tastes. Whoever comes to Portugal eats always well, as you will be able to confirm.



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