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11 Facts about Portuguese Cuisine that May Surprise You

Written on : 01 December 2020
By : Laura Wendy Harders López
11 Facts about Portuguese Cuisine that May Surprise You

Portugal has a special charm to go on a unique gastronomic tour- and as you might have known, we are big fans of this country! Their "food credentials" have been increasingly gaining popularity among the "foodies" over the years since the country's been becoming a voguish destination for travel enthusiasts. Although their dishes aren't super sophisticated, the country's cuisine is absolutely deliciosa e saborosa! And with good reason, because just by thinking of their food, makes our mouths water!
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So, let's embark on this gastronomic tour and learn some interesting facts you might not know about Portuguese cuisine and culture:

1) Tomato Love

That's right. The tomato must be one of Portugal's favourite ingredients because you'll find it in a lot of dishes. Being it a traditional Mediterraneum staple food, it encompasses various Portuguese recipes-- such as "Portuguese Tomato Rice", "Portuguese Gazpacho", "Escabeche Sardines", "Chicken in tomato sauce", "Codfish and tomato sauce", and "Tomato soup". 

2) Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Portugal's treasure

Olive oil is Portugal's liquid gold. This other Portuguese food staple is without a doubt another of their most relished ones. Not only is it very delicious, but it's super healthy too! Many people claim that it's "the best superfood in the world". The Portuguese profusely add extra virgin olive oil throughout their cuisine, featuring it especially in salads, meat and fish dishes. Actually, most of the meat and fish recipes are practically drowned in their delicious glittery superfood. What's more, there's even what's called "olive oil tourism" in Portugal that many travellers are raving over-- being it a great way to immerse oneself and discover the country's, culture, gastronomy and essence.

3) Portuguese Chestnut

Portuguese Castanhas or chestnuts are roasted and ready to eat nearly anywhere you want in Portugal. You'll find them roasting away in many street corners from vendors. Chestnuts are a traditional food that Portuguese people eat especially during the autumn and winter months. Also, you'll find them in local feiras or markets.

4) Codfish Obsession -- Bachalau

4) Codfish Obsession -- Bachalau

Whether it's roasted, cooked, grilled, crumbled, with cream, added in salads-- codfish or Bachalau is the main protagonist of the Portuguese gastronomy. And it comes as no surprise that, in fact, the Portuguese are the biggest codfish consumers in the world. In 2015, Portugal imported 72,5% of Norwegian salted cod.
To understand the obsession for this fish, we need to look at their historical context: It dates back to the 15th century when Portugal would spend many weeks out at sea travelling across the Atlantic ocean. They realised they needed to find non-perishable food to withstand the long days and nights at sea-- and discovered the Nordics' delicious codfish, which they soon realised that when dried and salted it preserved well during their travels. And that's how their love for codfish started. They also continue to import tons of dried-salted codfish. 
Some very popular codfish dishes are "Bacalhau à Brás", "Pataniscas de Bacalhau", "Portuguese Cod Fish Casserole", "Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa", "Bacalhau à lagareiro", "Pastéis de Bacalhau", and "Portuguese Salt Cod Stew"... Mmh Absolutamente delicioso!

5) Fresh seafood BBQ

For many countries, when people hear "take the grill this weekend, we're going to have a BBQ", they'll immediately think they're going to eat a lot of hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, and steaks. However, that's not "how the Portuguese roll", because what's more common for them is to grill some delicious fresh seafood on charcoal. This idiosyncrasy is considered an art embedded in Portuguese culture-- which can't come as a surprise, as the Portuguese love to eat seafood, not to mention how delicious it is. They even have a custom saying that nobody should eat fish on Mondays because the fishermen don't work on weekends-- therefore people wouldn't be eating fresh seafood!

6) Wine culture

6) Wine culture

Food and wine are fundamental cornerstones of Portuguese culture. Port and Madeira are the most famous ones you might know about, and many wines have a mix of 6-8 grape varieties in one bottle. 
Portugal has 16 wine regions and a vineyard area of 250,000 hectares to produce 6 million hl, occupying the 11th position in the world ranking. In the last decade, interest in wine tourism has increased, concentrating farms and wineries throughout the country -- especially in the Douro and Alentejo, which not only allow tourists to discover its exquisite wines but also soak up its heritage, culture and people. Making it an indelibly indulging travel experience. 

7) Lupin beans and beer - tremoços

You can't have a beer without tremoços! These are small salty snacks called "lupin beans", and are a perfect accompaniment on a sunny day. During your stay in Portugal- you'll see them served in every cafe or bar, however, you'll mostly see them on football nights. 

8) Soup-ilicious

Soup is another integral part of Portuguese gastronomy. And in many regions, it is the main meal at dinner time. They are delicious, savoury and nutritious-- some famous soups are "Caldo Verde", "Canja de Galinhja", "Sopa de Pedra", "Sopa de Tomate", and "Açorda/Sopa Alentejana". Most of them include tomatoes, garlic, eggs, onions, cabbage, fish or meat, and accompanied by olive oil and bread.  
What's more, don't be surprised to find McSoup in every McDonalds across the country.

9) Food variety

Some people might think that Portuguese food is the same everywhere across the country-- that once you dine at a traditional restaurant, one can expect to see the same menu in every other Portuguese restaurant. And that's where people might be in the dark! Because if there's something special about Portuguese cuisine, it's how varied it is, especially the contrast between coastal and mountainous areas. In the former, you'll mostly find various types of shellfish and seafood dishes, and in the latter, it is more common to see a lot of Iberico pork, succulent lamb and game in their recipes. 

10) Piri-Piri chicken

10) Piri-Piri chicken

Piri-Piri is a sauce prepared to marinate different dishes. The term "Piri-Piri" actually originates from the Swahili language. It refers to a hot chilli that is commonly used in multiple recipes in Angola and Mozambique, among many other African countries. Its use is also very widespread in Portugal, and grilled Piri-Piri chicken is one of the most consumed dishes in the country, especially in Algarve. 

11) Huge food portions

The default size for servings in Portugal is HUGE. Yes, you've read correctly. However, it might sound like paradise for the "foodies", as they'll be getting more bang for their buck. So on your trip to Portugal, you better have a good appetite or otherwise learn how to request a small or medium portion!
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