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Despite being a country of small proportions, Portugal has a great gastronomic variety. This variety is directly related to its geographical location, the climate, the ancient people who lived here and the maritime discoveries contribution. A direct portal to the ocean, a mild Mediterranean climate and an extremely fertile soil allows a good agriculture and a unique quality in local products. The base of Mediterranean gastronomy, used throughout all of the national territory comprises bread, wine and olive oil adding the fish or meat, vegetables and season’s fruits. The maritime discoveries strongly enriched the Portuguese gastronomy, importing products in a large scale of its colonies and making them essential to national culinary, such as beans, potatoes, sugar and various spices that introduced new flavors.
The meat and its guts, mostly from pig, are the basis of different regional dishes and snacks such as a huge variety of presuntos (dry-cured hams) and enchidos (sausages) - Alentejo pork meat, cozido à portuguesa (a portuguese stew), alheira, farinheira, chouriço, linguiça, black pudding, among many others. You can also find a variety of dishes made from other excellent PDO meats like beef, lamb, goat, poultry or rabbit. From the sea, influenced by the rich union of Mediterranean and Atlantic currents, we received the tastiest shellfish and fish, recognized by some of the most renowned international chefs as the best fish in the world. In Portugal, the fish and shellfish always fresh can be eaten simply grilled, or in very rich casseroles or stews. The bacalhau (dried and salted cod), comes mostly from the Nordic seas, is also a much appreciated fish in Portugal and the Portuguese people are exceptionally in their preparation, and there are some people who say that there are thousand and one different recipes to cook it. The Portuguese pastry, also varied with many typical sweets at each location, has its conventional roots mostly at a time when there was plenty eggs and sugar, hence the majority of the Portuguese pastry have these ingredients as base. The cheese, always accompanied by a good wine, is another product also highly appreciated by the Portuguese. We can found in all national territory various types of cheese made from milk of sheep, cow, goat or mixture, which vary from region to region in terms of consistency, taste and degree of fat. Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat, fish or shellfish lover, whether you like simple or complex and delicious dishes full of flavor, whether you opt to stay all day snacking and eating pastry, Portugal is the ideal country to get to know a variety of flavors and textures with the freshest products. You will feel pleased and surprised for sure whether you choose the best restaurant or a simple and good tavern on the corner.
Gastronomy by region
In Portugal you can find a wide variety of regional dishes and desserts in a single region, and the confection of a dish can vary from city to city, even sharing the same basic recipe. Common dishes, but enhanced in a certain region gained fame, and who goes to a Portugal city enjoys them, like the Lisbon’s iscas, the posta à Mirandesa, Alentejo’s asparagus migas, Algarve’s sardines or cooked grain. Along the Portuguese coast you can enjoy a Portuguese caldeirada (stew) that varies so much according to each region, with the freshest fish and shellfish.
In the North you will find a rich and delicious cuisine worthy of true gourmets. A region of excellent pastures where there are indigenous breeds that give origin to tasty and succulent PDO meats as the Barrosã, Mirandesa,Maronesa and Arouquesa beef, Transmontano lamb, and the Barroso goat kid. It also worth mention the hunt meat like partridges and rabbits and their cabidela dishes, presunto and high quality regional enchidos where abound alheiras (sausage without pork meat), blood chouriço, farinheiras, morcela (black pudding) among others, in Northwest’s is located the largest breeding area of bísaro pig. Tripas à moda do Porto (tripe with white beans), feijoada do Alto Barroso (bean stew with several types of meat), rojões à moda de Barcelos (fried diced pork), cabidela Transmontana (chicken cooked in its own blood with rice), rancho à moda do Minho (meat with pasta and chickpeas), are some of the numerous dishes based on meat that you can taste in this region. In addition to the great quality of fish found in the west coast, you can also enjoy delicious river fish such as trout, shad and lamprey. The dishes made of bacalhau (dried and salted cod), are also emblematic in the northern region, with many of recipes from this region, such as bacalhau à Minhota, bacalhau à Gomes de Sá or bacalhau à Zé do Pipo. The pastry recipes are also varied, with special emphasis on the Abade de Priscos flan, toucinho-do-céu, leite-creme queimado (Crème brûlée) or aletria.
At the Centre you can always find a table full of food with a smile behind asking "Éservido?"(Do you want some food?). Near the coast ,the sea presents us with the freshest fish and shellfish, especially the well-known abundant eels in the Ria de Aveiro, resulting in delicious stews and casseroles, dishes that can also be prepared with fish from the many rivers and lakes in the central region . The roast veal, roast goat kid, lamb, chanfana of cooked meat in red wine, meat sausages (enchidos) such as maranhos, morcela (rice black pudding) and others, are some of the most popular dishes of this region. But the king of this region is undoubtedly the Leitão assado à Bairrada (roast suckling pig), which makes the delight of the Portuguese who often drive to this area just to indulge themselves with this tasty dish. It is also important to highlight the excellent quality of the cheeses from this region, buttery or cured, from goat, sheep or cow, as the famous Serra da Estrela cheese, Rabaçal cheese, spicy cheese, requeijão da Beira Baixa, among others. Other regional products of excellent quality that you can find around here are honey and olive oil. The various monasteries that exist in central Portugal are guilty for the excellent pastry tradition of this region with a huge variety of sweets, cakes and cookies, which are normally based on the eggs and sugar. An example are the ovos-moles de Aveiro, pão-de-ló de Ovar (a sponge cake), castanhas de ovos de Viseu, pastéis de Tentúgal, pastéis de Lorvão and pastéis de Vouzela.
Lisbon and Tagus Valley
This region is a haven for fish, clams and crustaceans that can be found in various places and tasted at the most charming seaside esplanades, such as mussels from Ericeira and Cabo da Roca, the mullets, clams and oysters of Setúbal, the fish-Sword of Sesimbra or the crustaceans of Cascais. The roasted sardines are a constant presence in the summer, where local restaurants or terraces prepare their grills for unstoppable dosages of this delicacy accompanied by roasted peppers and baked potatoes, all drizzled with the excellent Portuguese olive oil. The boats that dock at ports of this coast, are the ones that supply restaurants in these areas with these and other succulent fish, to bring you to your table a plate of stew, a fish soup or a simple but delicious grilled fish. The farms of the Tagus Valley provide the region with excellent beef and pork dishes influenced by their region neighbor, Alentejo. The Azeitão PDO cheese made from goat and with soft consistency is another delicacy of the region, recognized by some as one of the best Portuguese cheeses. The regional pastry is also very popular here, there are an extensive list of pastry from each locality, the most notably are the famous pastel de Belém, Azeitão pies, tigeladas, nozes de Cascais, queijadas and travesseiros, pastéis de feijão, trouxas-de-ovos, among others.
The simplicity and creativity of the people of this region have made their gastronomy nationally recognized as one of the tastiest cuisines of Portugal, where an extraordinary symphony of different flavors meet to form the most varied dishes. It was once a region with plenty of wheat fields and herds of pigs grazing freely on the plains filled with olive groves, that made the base of almost all typical Alentejo dishes with the trilogy bread, pork and olive oil, that were complemented with a smooth combination of a variety of herbs of the area, such as parsley, rosemary, pennyroyal, mint, oregano, coriander, thyme and bay leaf. In the first course of any restaurant and always present in any Alentejo table is the tasty Alentejo bread, the linguiça (sausage) or presunto (dry-cured ham) and cheese. You can find in this region renowned sheep or goat cheese of Nisa, Serpa and Évora, which can be dried, cured or buttery. It is common the main dish being a soup, such as dogfish soup, cod soup, tomato soup with linguiça, purslane soups, stone soup, Gazpacho (cold tomato soup) or Alentejo açorda. Don’t worry, you will not be hungry, they are soups rich in vegetable from the area and sometimes enchidos and bread. The bread, from Alentejo of course, is an indispensable ingredient in the most famous regional dish, the migas (bread stew) from asparagus, potato, coriander, tomato or others, accompanying fried pork meat or shredded bacalhau. The diversity of livestock producers in the region invested on product’s certification, now boasting several denominations of quality associated with their meats like Lamb of Baixo Alentejo, Montemor-o-Novo and Northeastern Alentejo, all PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), Carnalentejana, Mertolenga and Charneca beef and the well-known Alentejo's pork, all PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). In the region you can find several meat and game dishes, including lamb stew, carne de porco à alentejana, roast lamb, migas with pork, feijoada à alentejana, cooked grain, wild rabbit, hare stew, açorda of partridges, wild boar stew. The variety of the traditional table of Alentejo is infinite, and in addition to the soups, meat dishes and varied first dishes such as chorizo, cheeses, eggs with wild asparagus, roasted peppers, torresmos (pork rinds), among others, you can also find the always present delicious and fresh shellfish, like the southwest goose barnacle, the bream, the sea bass, the wreck fish, the horse mackerel, the octopus, the cuttlefish, among others, that can be enjoyed grilled or in stews, massadas, rice dishes or soups. The desserts with great influence from the ancient convents of Alentejo, include mostly eggs, sugar and almond, like pão de rala, encharcada, toucinho-do-céu, trouxas-de-ovos, pastéis de Santa Clara, queijadas de requeijão.
In Algarve the sun, the fish and the shellfish are undoubtedly the kings of the party. The Algarve region extends along the entire Portugal’s southern coast, with the sea as their main food source. So the fish and shellfish, always fresh, are the central ingredients of the Algarve cuisine, in recipes that have been refined over the years by the fishermen who brought the fish of the sea. There are numerous ways to cook these products, from simply grilled but full of tricks that give you that taste that only the coal can give, to the fish soups, snacks or elaborated stews and cataplanas. The cataplanas, widely used in Algarve dishes, is a typically Portuguese copper container witch cooks food closed, being quite effective in conserving the natural juices and flavors. Among the shellfish we can highlight the clams, oysters, cockles, bean clams, mussels or goose barnacles, which can be tasted cooked in the pan, griddle or skillet, or in a variety of dishes like arroz de lingueirão (razor-shell rice), xerém de conquilhas (xerém of bean clams), açorda of shellfish, feijoada de búzios (whelk bean stew), clams in cataplana, among others. The fish caught in these waters also originates various dishes such as atum de cebolada (tuna with caramelized onions), carapaus alimados (a horse mackerel dish), grilled sardines, delicious sea bream and bass on the grill and as a side dish the famous montanheira salad. The octopus, squid and cuttlefish are also masterful dishes of this region, like the octopus stewed in wine, the cuttlefish à algarvia or the stuffed squid. To enhance the taste, the salt pans of the region offer an excellent sea salt especially the flor de sal, widely used in Algarve cuisine. Seize the summer to experience many of these delicacies visiting shellfish festivals that take place in the region and allow you to sample a little of everything. Meat is also much appreciated but more consumed in the mountainous areas of the region, in varying dishes like chicken cerejada, boiled chickpeas and enchidos. In this region abundant in fertile soils, people lives from what the earth gives, and agriculture is one of the major activity in the area. The trees loaded with fruits of the season fill the fields with bright colors such as the emblematic image of the Algarve’s almond tree blossom, originating many sweets and liqueurs typical of the region. Fruits like orange, almond, medronhos, figs, locust bean among others, turned into fig cheese, medronho jam, and almond liqueur. Many pastry from the region still reveal traces of the Arabic passage in Portuguese territory such as almond cookies, Don Rodrigo, morgados, morgadinhos, stuffed figs, figs with almond and chocolate, Aljezur’s sweet potato pastries among many other traditional pastry.
The Azorean cuisine is rich in flavors and varieties, and is a paradise of fresh fish and shellfish. Grilled, in stews, or in soups, the abundant and very tasty seafood is featured in the gastronomy in any of the nine islands. The tuna in the Azores is one of the region’s symbol, with soft taste and textures, captured with hook and line and is delicious eaten fresh or canned. The octopus is also much appreciated, and is usually cooked in a stew of red wine. The Azorean tuna steak or Azorean stewed octopus are two dishes that cannot miss if you pass through this region. Among many other shellfish, here you can find some almost exclusive of the region such as barnacles, limpets and cavaco (Mediterranean slipper lobster), tender and delicious. The Azores also have excellent meats, such as Terceira’s rump, one beef of excellent quality. On the São Miguel Island you cannot miss the famous cozido das Furnas, adish that includes various types of meats and enchidos, and it is cooked slowly beneath the ground, in the volcanic calderas of the region. Other products such as bacalhau (dried cod), are also used in dishes done in this way of natural cooking. As for desserts you have a specialty like bolo lêvedo a sort of sweet bread with origins in furnas that can be served plain, with butter, jam or Azores’s PDO honey, or the much appreciated Queijadas of Vila Franca do Campo de S. Miguel. Also in all the islands you can find many high quality cheeses, and the most well-known both in the islands as on the continent is the São Jorge’s cheese (PDO), with a strong flavor and slightly spicy. The Azores islands with its climate and fertile land are rich in local products, many of them emerge almost spontaneously. A highlight to the bittersweet Azores's pineapple (PDO) consumed fresh or in Pineapple liqueur and the juicy and slightly acid Azores's Passion Fruit (PDO) consumed fresh or in puddings, mousses and ice creams. It's in the Azores, more specifically on the São Miguel Island, that you find the only two tea plantations for industrial purposes in Europe, with an annual production of about 50 tons and are now also an island tourism product. Azores's Green tea is the best known, though there exists also the production of black tea in different varieties.
The Madeira’s gastronomy excels for its simplicity and traditionalism, through the conjugation of several regional high quality products. The fish, octopus and shellfish from the Atlantic, with special reference to the black swordfish fillets, tuna steaks, limpets, sea snail, are fresh and succulent and are true gastronomic delicacies. Among the various meat dishes, we highlight the tasteful espetada de carne de vaca em pau de loureiro (beef kebab in laurel stick) or to carne de vinha d’alhos (meat with wine and garlic) with a strong and vinegary flavor. The Madeira archipelago, with an exceptional climate, it is also rich in sugar cane and tropical fruits that grow in abundance. At certain periods, the slopes of Madeira are filled with trees yielding fruits of the season originating beautiful landscape paintings full of color. The mango, the avocado, the custard apple, the different varieties of the passion fruit, the Madeira's banana are some of the fruits of this region, that apart to eaten fresh originate delicious desserts and liqueurs. From the sugar cane is made a well-known drink of Madeira, the Poncha made with honey and lemon too. As for desserts you can found here the famous honey cake (sugarcane syrup cake), sweet potato donuts, queijadas (kind of cheesecake) and the rebuçados de funcho (fennel candy). Also you must taste bolo do caco, a bread baked on a tile, which can be eaten plain or with garlic butter.
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