Portuguese Cuisine

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Portuguese cheesePortuguese cuisine is quite an experience for the first-timer since it is an epitome of the Mediterranean diet. Their cuisine is characterized by a lot of seafood and meat and poultry as well as vegetables. The Portuguese people are also fans of a variety of spices which they use to flavor their food in so many ways.

These spices include piri piri, or small chili peppers as well as saffron, vanilla and cinnamon. Portuguese cuisine also has some Moorish and Arab influences. One of the things that you’ll notice with Portuguese cuisine is that olive oil is one of the bases of Portuguese meals whether it is for cooking or flavoring. They also use garlic and other common herbs such as parsley and coriander.

The country of Portugal is a seafaring nation at  heart. It is quite obvious that it is apparent with the amount of fish and seafood that the country eats. They absolutely love fish. They can serve it grilled, boiled friend or even roasted. The most prominent fish that they nation eats is the bacalhau or the salted cod. It is practically the country’s most consumed fish and is said to have more than 365 ways to prepare a dish with the bacalhau in it.

Cod is almost always used when it has already been dried and salted because this was the fishing tradition that was present in the North Atlantic before. Other seafood that the Portuguese have an affinity for are the sardines, shrimp, octopus, squid, horse mackerel, lamprey, scabbard, shellfish and seabass. They also have Caldeirada which is essentially a stew with potatoes, onion, shellfish and tomato in it.

The Portuguese also love eating meat. In the past, eating meat was a privilege that was only reserved for the upper classes. It was a staple at a nobleman’s dining table back then. The Portuguese have so many dishes that have meat in them. You have the Spanish  cocido which is the counterpart of the French pot au feu.

You also have the cozido which has chickpeas, cabbage, rice and combine it with a lot of meat products such as pork and blood sausage, salt pok, pig’s feet, potatoes, carrots, turnips and beef.  This was originally a favorite dish of the well off farmer but it eventually reached the dining tables of the urban bourgeoisie as well as other restaurants.

Finally, if you look at the other types of food that the Portuguese love, you will also discover that they love cheeses. They are most fond of cheeses that are made from goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. There are times that they even combine both types to come up with a very aromatic and strong-flavored type of cheese.

There is a place in Azores where the cheese that they make is accompanied by a spicy taste. One must remember that traditional Portuguese cuisine serves cheeses before meals and is not combined in any of the other main meals. There are cheeses such as the Queijo da Serra da Estrela which is strong in flavor.