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Lisbon Food and Drink

From: Lisbon, Portugal travel guide

Lisbon picture

ABOVE: Roosters are a symbol of Portugal. This one guards crates in an outdoor food market.

Food

Portugal is a country where you can dine well at low prices if your tastes run to simple meals based on fresh ingredients.

Seafood is the entrée of choice. Some of my most memorable seafood meals have been at cheap restaurants in Portugal--among them, a neighborhood place in Lisbon's Graça district where the owner presided over a charcoal grill on the sidewalk. Order whatever fish is being served, including grilled fresh tuna, which is the Portuguese seafood chef's answer to beefsteak.

BacalhauBacalhau, or salt cod, is also worth trying at least once. Don't miss grilled sardines, or sardinhas assadas, which are larger and tastier than the sardines that make their way into cans.

Pork, veal, and chicken are usually good, and beef can be good if you aren't expecting tender filet migon.

Vegetarian options are more limited. You can usually order an omelette with French fries. Caldo verde, a cabbage soup flavored with coriander (cilantro), is excellent if you don't mind picking a slice of sausage out of the soup before your dip your spoon in.

Açorda  á Alentejana, a bread soup made with coriander and garlic, includes a nourishing dollop of poached egg.

Also look for miniature rounds of farmer's cheese made with sheep's milk. These resemble compressed cottage cheese but are firmer and drier. (I like them, and I can't stand cottage cheese.)

Desserts are a high point of Portuguese cooking, at least if you enjoy egg-based sweets. Flan, or crème caramel, is served just about everywhere, and chocolate mousse is often on the menu. Usually you'll see one or more variations on pão de Ló, a rich yellow sponge cake made with egg yolks that may be flavored with orange juice, lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, Port wine, or Madeira. 

Belem tartsIn Lisbon's tempting pastry shops, try the pasteis de nata or Belém tarts (see article) or any pastry that contains fios d'ovos ("thread eggs"). Ovos moles, or "soft eggs," use the same basic ingredients as fios d'ovos--egg yolk and sugar syrup--but may be eaten with a spoon, like a pudding. For the ultimate in sickly-sweet desserts, buy a cake filled with ovos moles or fios d'ovos and decorated with ribbons of colored sugar.

Tips: 

  • Don't be misled by appearances. Inexpensive, rustic-looking restaurants with plastic tablecloths often serve excellent meals.
  • Although buffet-style breakfasts have become more common in international hotels, pensions and budget hotels may serve the traditional breakfast of coffee and rolls. (Fortunately, Portuguese coffee is among the world's best, and baked goods are often superb.)

Drink

I don't pretend to be a wine expert, so I'll simply recommend ordering the house wine in simpler establishments or enjoying a bottle of chilled vinho verde ("green wine") when you're in the mood for a refreshingly light wine with a low alcohol content. 

Porto (port), a fortified wine, is another Portuguese specialty that you should try unless you're a teetotaler. Chilled white port makes a delightful apéritif, and a glass of vintage or tawny port is a nice way to finish off a meal.

Tip:

  • White port or porto branco is virtually unknown outside of Portugal, so don't miss a chance to try it while you're in Lisbon.)

Next page: Lisbon restaurants





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