Although I have only gotten the pleasure of visiting Portugal one in my life, and it was only visiting Lisbon, it exceeded my expectations. Back in college, my roommate and dearest friend Mary was the only Portuguese person I knew. People would mock her about being born in the most boring country of Europe. Apparently the most exciting thing about Portugal was Cristiano Ronaldo. Ignorance and unconscious jealousy are bliss, I guess.
I can hands down say, I would pack my bags to travel all over Portugal tomorrow if I could. And hey, who knows. Maybe meet a couple of you there.
Now, lets get to serious business. What were my favorite eats?
✨ Lets begin by saying that the food in Portugal is quite similar to the one in Spain. Very heavy on fish, meats, olives, tomato, beans, and spices. They love their bread, so much so, it is quite the inside joke in countries with big Portuguese communities, like in Venezuela, because all Portuguese own a bread shop or bakery. Needless to say, for a sandwich to be good, it is essential for the bread to be good, so trust any sandwich you eat in Portugal will be too.
✨ Now I want a sandwich, and so will you. Start your morning getting a local delicatessen, a Bifana Sandwich, specially from As Bifana Do Alfonso. Thin ad chopped pork strips sautéed in garlic and spices in between a fresh bread roll. It was quite light when shared, giving enough fuel to walk the hilly and colorful city of Lisbon.
✨ Near the Plaza da Figueira, you will find my staple visit when traveling, an outdoor market. This one is called Mercado De Baixia and their offerings are stellar. From fresh olives, local cheeses, cuts of ham, bread, and sangria (of course).
✨ Frangasqueira Nacional, a Portuguese Churrasqueira offering the most amazing Piri Piri Chicken. The cozy joint only has 6 tables, but once inside, you feel at home. The person in charge of the kitchen does all the cooking for you, right infront of your eyes.
✨ For a more diverse take in Portuguese cuisine, head to Restaurante Marco and try their Pica Pau, which translates to Woodpecker. It could be because this strew consists of steak bites cooked with sausage and vegetables like carrots, cauliflower and black olives. Because Porto was not part of our plans, we had to get one of that region's classics. This sandwich on steroids, called Francensinha, has layers of their traditional cheese, ham, bacon, and sausage drenched in a famous beer sauce.
✨ For a traditional yet laid back place, head to Lisboa Tu & Eu. It was perfect, from the service to the ambience, and most importantly, their food. All traditional, locally sourced, and served in small plates letting you try a little bit of everything. Their Bacalhau all styles and roasted potatoes were delicious.
The magical thing about Pastéis de Belém or Pastéis de Nata is that they taste like home, even if your home is not Portugal. The are creamy egg custard tarts baked until perfection, which ressemble a lot to the iconic Hong Kong Egg Tarts.
They are uniquely caramelized, almost like a Crème Brûlée. The legend says that back in the 13th century, local monks started making them after living in France and learning how to separate the yolk from the egg whites. If you have never had them, try them while they are still warm with a sprinkle of grounded cinnamon.
I got to try 4 different Pastéis de Nata spots, this was is my ranking:
- Manteigaria, they were still warm, the custard was fresh and had a hint of cinnamon (which was what we liked the most, it was a pleasant surprise)
- Fábrica da Nata, the tart’s dough was flakier which reminded me of Colombian milhoja.
- A Nata De Lisboa
- Portugal's PAUL, was my perfect good bye treat flying back home.
Have you ever visited Portugal? Have you tried or Pastéis de Nata? Let me know in the comments below.