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Traditional Portuguese Food - Special Christmas Edition

Everyone who visits Portugal seems to agree that we live in a paradise situated by the sea. However, Portugal has much more to offer than picturesque seaside scenery or mountainous regions with diverse fauna and flora. Portugal has the gift of serving unforgettable recipes whose flavour is timeless and stems from centuries of knowledge acquired through the voyages of navigators to the world. When you taste traditional Portuguese food, you are taking a trip around the world without leaving the country. Come and discover what and where the best Portuguese delicacies are eaten, with a special focus on Christmas dishes.

You've probably noticed how small Portugal is in comparison to the rest of the European Union. You probably imagined that the country had few customs or even a single traditional recipe. Well, there is no shortage of different customs and traditions in each region in Portugal, and the best part is that there are also many traditional recipes, from Minho to the Algarve or from the Alentejo to Madeira and the Azores. Do you know what you should try when you are here?


Traditional Algarve Food

Since the Algarve is washed by the Atlantic Ocean, the main course is served with a touch of the sea. You can eat fish in restaurants caught and delivered in the early hours of the morning. Choose raw grilled fish with a bit of salt to bring out the flavour of the sea. Grilled sardines and cataplana are two of the region's most popular recipes.

The good news for those spending their summer holidays in the Algarve is that sardines become delicious at this time of year and can be enjoyed at the traditional Tasca da Lota restaurant. It is said that the utensil that gives the recipe its name in the Algarve, the cataplana, originated in North Africa and is similar to Moroccan tajines. The difference lies in the ingredients used. In the Algarve recipe, fish and seafood are the hosts of this delicious traditional Portuguese dish, which you can enjoy at Noélia e Jerónimo.


Traditional Algarve Christmas recipe - A beautiful cabidela or traditional Christmas Eve cod is common on Algarve tables for lunch on 25 December, but there is also room for "boiled" corn, a recipe from the Monchique Mountains that has spread throughout the region. Sweet potato pastries, almond pie, and sonhos are common for dessert.


Traditional Alentejo Food

If fish is king on the country's coast, inland it is black pork that reigns. As in many other areas of Portuguese gastronomy, the same applies here: The simpler the preparation method, the better the flavours come out. Follow this principle and try the best black pork served on a clay tile at Vovó Joaquina by Peter Brissos. Afterwards, there is always time to enjoy the famous Alentejo wines and traditional sweets of the region at one of the oldest cafés in the country, Luís da Rocha.


Traditional Alentejo Christmas recipe - Boiled or oven-roasted cod is served on Christmas Eve, but there are also those who prefer roast kid. Filhós, chickpeas azevias and encharcadas are some of the typical sweets found at this time of year.


Traditional Lisbon and the Tagus Valley Food

In Lisbon, people from all over the world come together and with them come flavours and recipes. We would say that the Portuguese capital is a combination of national traditions. The popular Pastéis de Belém are a temptation and going to Lisbon without trying them is the capital's new sin. Whether plain, with sugar or cinnamon, what really counts is to try them in one of Lisbon's pastry shops, such as the Manteigaria in Bairro Alto

Lisbon is the ideal place to try traditional snacks such as bifana, prego (the pork or beef sandwiches can be found in any casual establishment) or patanisca de bacalhau (found at D'Bacalhau restaurant). Accompany it all with a good wine, a craft beer or even a ginjinha.

Traditional Lisbon Christmas recipes - As we said before, Lisbon has something of all regions due to the migratory flows we still experience today. For this reason, the most typical dishes on Christmas Eve are cod, cooked with all the ingredients, and roast turkey. For lunch we serve kid, lamb or turkey again. For dessert we have Portuguese vermicelli, "filhós" or the Bolo Rei.

Traditional Centre Region Food

From the interior to the Beira coast, wonders await you. If you love cheese, your destination is the Serra da Estrela. If possible, make the trip in winter to see the snow-capped mountains. Then wander through the soul-soothing dishes such as rabbit serrana style, suckling pig Bairrada style, lamprey Bordalesa style or rancho Viseu style. There are the cavacas, the ovos moles or the Lafões biscuits for dessert. In this region, there are the mountains, the sea and the interior.

Traditional Centre Region Christmas recipe - On Christmas Eve, cod is king and on Christmas Day, at lunchtime, there is kid, turkey or octopus in the Beira Litoral region. For dessert, there are plenty of tigeladas, papas de carolo and aletria (Portuguese vermicelli pudding).


Traditional Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro Food

The traditional recipes of this Portuguese region show that hardship and poverty were a daily problem in the past, so products with long shelf lives were preferred. It was not the lack of resources that prevented these people from transforming their gastronomy into something spectacular. Anyone who is Portuguese knows that bread is always present, and in Favaios, there are the "pão de quatro cantos" or simply the "triguinho de Favaios" to try. This delicious bread is served with "Alheira de Mirandela." A sausage made of poultry and rabbit meat that was allegedly invented by Jews to deceive the Inquisition because it resembled pork sausage. We couldn't pass up the "feijoada à transmontana" a warm and flavorful dish made from various parts of the pig.

Traditional Trás-os-Montes Christmas recipe - In the north of Portugal, it is not the cod that is king, but the octopus. It is first cooked with bay leaf, onion and pepper and then baked with garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Desserts include “Migas Doces”, “Sonhos Transmontanos”, the “bolo rei” cake and pumpkin fritters.

Traditional Minho and Douro Litoral Food

This region has a similar history to Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro. When there was no abundance and the crisis was there, recipes were created with the products that were available. One example is papas de sarrabulho (Portuguese gravy), made with chicken, pork, smoked ham, chouriço sausage, caraway seeds and pig's blood. You can also find Porto-style tripe or Minho-style rojões.

When you visit the beautiful city of Porto, work up an appetite and try a francesinha at Afonso's, where Anthony Bourdain had the pleasure.

Traditional Minho Christmas recipe - cod and traditional octopus (polvo à Lagareiro) are the chosen dishes for Christmas Eve. For lunch, we can count on "old clothes", a recipe with a strange name but aimed at not wasting the surplus food from Christmas dinner.


Traditional Madeira and the Azores Islands Food

Let us start with the island of Madeira and its typical meat dishes. Many restaurants serve kebabs on laurel sticks with fried corn, but if you can combine this meal with a beautiful landscape, we recommend the Cabo Aéreo restaurant. At several places, you can find the prego em bolo do caco (beef sandwich in typical Madeira bread) or the picadinho de Carne (portions are usually large). Limpets, swordfish fillets or barnacles are other options from the sea. Do not miss the famous fisherman's and Regional Poncha and the delicious niquitas, made from the island's juicy fruits.

The Furnas stew, which is cooked in a natural cauldron for five hours until it takes on the flavours of each ingredient, is the most famous dish in the Azores. The Espírito Santo soup is another well-known dish. It can be found on all islands, but each has its unique ingredient. Pineapple is abundant on the islands and can be served with fried black pudding, a little snack that goes perfectly with it.

Traditional Madeira and Azores Christmas recipes - In Madeira, the typical kebabs are eaten on a laurel stick, chicken broth is served for lunch, followed by pork in "vinha-de-alhos". For dessert, the honey cake, walnut cake and Madeira "filhós" delight everyone.

On Christmas Eve in the Azores, braised chicken is served with potatoes. For lunch, there is roast pork, beef or chicken. For dessert, Christmas gets even sweeter with banana meringue and sweet rice.

Explore Portugal from beginning to end. There is a world to discover in this small but vast country of traditions, landscapes, and gastronomy. Please contact our reception for additional restaurant recommendations in the Algarve.