Portugal—just the very sound of the country sounds warm, and true it is, but this is also a country full of flavors. So, while you’re out soaking up the sun, you should also take some time to do some gastronomic research during your stay and indulge in the delicious food and Portugal has to offer. Here are some of the country’s best best food and drink.
1. Pastel de nata
These custard tarts are both a treat and a cornerstone of Portuguese culinary culture, and you simply can’t leave the country without trying one – there are plenty of places, too, so there’s no excuse to, either. The dessert varies slightly depending whereabouts you are in Portugal, but one of the best places to sample these sweet sensations is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, in Lisbon, where they are known as Pastéis de Belem. The shop is a hit with locals and tourists alike and is one of the oldest in Portugual for producing this dessert, so they sure know what they’re doing!
Visit the food market of Olhao if you’re staying in the south of the country in the famous Algarve, and you’re in for some of the tastiest seafood you can imagine. This fishing village has a longstanding tradition of serving seafood, stretching back as far as the Middle Ages. The sheer variety available at this market is staggering, It has about 80 stalls selling just about everything, including squid and lobster. Visit the market early in the morning – i.e. before 11.00 am – to get the best produce and seafood, and then stop off for some coffee at one of the cafés along the waterfront.
3. House wine
Sometimes people get embarrassed about ordering house wine, but you shouldn’t; in fact, you should order it: house wine is what the locals will choose with their meal (and you are going for the authentic Portuguese experience, aren’t you?). Often the wine is locally sourced and goes well with fresh fish and meat dishes, and will be served in a large glass or clay jar rather than a bottle. Enjoy it, and if you get the chance to sample the Portuguese version of sangria, make the most of that opportunity.
Snails might not originally seem that appetizing, but they’re part of the Portuguese experience in summertime. You can get small or large snails (‘caracóis’ or ‘caracoletas’, respectively), and these are served in a large pot of savory broth for everyone to share. It’s not just a meal, but a social past-time, a little bit like having drinks together, so dig in!
Sure, France may hog much of the limelight when it comes to the world of cheese, but to not try some of the Portuguese cheeses is to miss out. Portugal makes a wide range of regional cheeses—including goats’ cheese, sheep’s cheese and cured cheese—in sizeable quantities. Cheeses bear the label DOP, which indicates they were made in their traditional region.
The Quejio da Serra, also known as ‘Quejio Serrano’, is one of the most delightful cheeses you’ll come across. Such is the texture of the cheese that the traditional method is to cut a hole in the top and scoop out the cheese with a spoon. The cheese itself is from the Serra da Estela mountain range and natural park region, in eastern Portugal.
Enjoy the sunshine while you’re in Portugal, but take the time to savor the gastronomic experience, too, so that come away with all the flavors of a Portuguese holiday.
Images by lobsterapps and deluxtrade, used under Creative Commons license 1.0