This is going to be an ongoing series on the food here in Portugal. This post is the first installment and first taste of Portugal. A certain cousin of mine (who shall remain unnamed) once commented that she was “unimpressed” by the Portuguese cuisine. Well. I have had a very different experience and I’ve taken some photos to prove it!
One of the things I was looking forward to the most about coming to Portugal was the cuisine. I was especially excited about the yummy pastries and other pão. Interesting fact: the Japanese and Taiwanese name for bread “pan” comes from the Portuguese word “pão” for bread! These delectable bites shown above are “pasteis”, or pastries. Out of the pasteis shown above, I have only had the ones on the bottom rack, second from the left. The pastries fourth from the left have an entire apple wrapped in dough and then the whole thing is baked with a stick of cinnamon (“canela” em Portuguese) sticking out the top. I will try it soon!
The most famous pastry in Portugal is the Pastel de Nata. It is sweet, light, fluffy, and oh-so-tasty. It’s perfect with a dash or two of cinnamon and a great energy boost when you are on the go. Here at the Casa Brasileira the Pasteis de Nata sell for 0,90€. This place is always packed with people. I have gone there two times already and both times I’ve left happy. They sell espressos, fresh juices, and alcoholic beverages as well. In addition to pastries, Casa Brasileira has a daily menu of entres including beef, chicken, and vegetarian dishes. I have yet to try these.
These pastries were in the Vasco Da Gama mall. When I took this picture I was yelled at by some barista who told me I couldn’t take pictures of the pastries. Well, I did so ha! After checking out the pastries here we walked over to the bus station in Oriente and took the 565 bus to Palmela via Rapida. Palmela is a quaint town about 45 minutes south of Lisbon. You have to cross the majestic Vasco da Gama Bridge. It’s a 17.2 km (over 10 miles) long bridge that connects Lisbon on the north side of the Tagus River to the south side. It is the longest bridge in Europe. After the trip we arrived at Sara’s house in Palmela and we were greeted with some good ol’ barbeque!
Here we are at Sara’s house and her dad is grilling up some pork in their brick fireplace. Most grills here in Portugal that I’ve had the pleasure of using/eating from have been charcoal grills. I have not seen a gas grill so far. Grilling with charcoal has some distinct advantages over gas grills: smoky flavour, deeper char on the meat, longer prep time to deepen the flavor. Plus it’s badass to use coals. You feel all caveman.
To go with the grilled meats Sara’s mom prepared some sliced fruits, cous cous, Portuguese bread, black beans, and her Sangria Espumante made with sparkling wine. You know what happens when you drink sangria. Ya get drunk…
Yeah, uh, you see, WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS…Look at Nils trying to avoid this picture. Shortly after this him and I were peer pressured into drinking a frisbee full of beer. How much beer do you think a standard size frisbee can hold? One beer? Two? Try a liter.
So the rest of this night was pretty much a blur after this frisbee of beer to the face piece. We will fast forward to the next day where we went to Setúbal to go to the beaches and grill in one of the public parks.
I have to say that my experience with Sardines prior to coming to Portugal was limited at best. It basically consisted of Sardines on pizza and seeing them in cans at the supermarket. But here in Portugal sardines grilled over coals is a staple in the diet. I’ve also never seen a whole Pineapple on the grill either.
Sara’s dad (farthest on the right) told the guy in the yellow striped shirt that I was not only a CIA agent from the states but also “Obama’s Asian Cousin”. Since I had a camera he believed the CIA agent part but I don’t know if he bought me being Obama’s kin from the far East. Hmm. That one’s a bit of a stretch. The rest of the photos from this day are all beach photos and have nothing at all to do with food, so we will fast forward again to when we are back in Grande Olde Lisboa, at the not-so-famous but very tasty restaurant Dona Ermelinda’s.
This dish above is basically a heart-attack on a plate! It is a deep fried Portuguese chorizo with some pulverized pork meat wrapped in a natural pork casing. It is served with french fries and a fried egg. Amazing.
Nils ordered the Bacalhau, the most famous and traditional Portuguese dish. This picture was taken after he took a few bites.
The next morning we woke up early-ish to get breakfast at the world famous Pasteis de Belém. This place is quite famous in Lisbon for having the “best” Pasteis de Nata in all of Portugal. They are so special that they have their own name. Now, I don’t consider myself an expert on Pasteis de Nata but I have to say that in Lisbon these are the best for sure. I have had some Pasteis de Nata in Aveiro that I thought were better, but these are quite tasty and do live up to their reputation.
This place is extremely popular to both tourists and locals alike and it’s very crowded and getting a table can be hard. Take a look at how much they have to make to keep up with demand.
Yum! This tasty desert is the best way I can think of to end this post, so I hope you enjoyed and if you come to Portugal make sure you enjoy your grilled meats, bacalhau, and pasteis de nata.
Have you had some tasty Portuguese cuisine or know of any good recipes? Share them in the comments below!