Eating out in Portugal is both affordable and enjoyable. The Portuguese adore eating! Portuguese cuisine is often quite simple and mixes Mediterranean ingredients such as onion, garlic, tomato and olive oil with more Northern European attributes such as butter, cream and dripping. During the “Discoveries” Portuguese sailors introduced many spices to the country, one which is popular in the Algarve is “piri piri” a type of redhot chilli pepper.
The Portuguese eat a lot of fish but be warned, often the fish will come to the table with scales, eyes and tentacles still intact; certainly not for the faint-hearted. For the more traditional palate, there are plenty of beef and pork steaks. For “snacks”, ham and cheese toasted sandwich are available everywhere, and try a delicious Portuguese soup. They are homemade and wonderfully filling, popular soups being chickpea, fish, beef, spinach, cabbage and pumpkin. The local, crusty, fresh bread is a wonderful accompaniment and is a wonderful treat eaten warm with butter. It is baked daily in the Algarve.
In the Algarve there are the following establishments:
A very basic “bar”, often even someone’s converted shed or garage; not glamorous but cheap and cheerful.
Nice in the evening for a cold local beer (eg. SuperBock), a long drink or something stronger. Visit a Portuguese bar which is very different from a tourist one - and cheaper! Try a regional medronho with a black coffee (bica). Medronho (Pr: medronyo) is the Algarvian equivalent to an Italian grappa or a Turkish rakı and is made from the fruit of the Arbutus tree. A Bacardi Limon served over ice with a dash of Coke is a nice way to cool off after a hot day.
Often the meeting point for Portuguese friends and families, there is a pastelaria on nearly very corner. Pastelarias are wonderful for family outings as they serve a range of items from coffees, hot chocolates and soft drinks to beers and whiskeys and the infamous Fire Water. Try the daily-made cakes which are simply delicious made from almonds, marzipan and egg.
This is a grill restaurant specialising in BBQ and roast meats and fish. Usually friendly, bustling and good value for money
Don’t be put off by simple Portuguese restaurants; often the more plain the establishment, the better the fare. Portuguese waiters are reputedly the best in Europe and some of the more upmarket restaurants boast good food and extremely pleasant service.
NB. Tipping is customary in eateries but not pastelarias, bars or tasca
You will usually be given a ‘cover’ of bread, olives, cheese or sardine pate as soon as you sit down – you will only be asked to pay for what you consume. You can also sedn this back if you do not wish to eat or be charged for it!
Some local dishes to try:
Caldeirada – a fish stew
Arroz do Marisco – shellfish rice
Lulhas Grelhadas – grilled squid
Bacalhau a Bras – cod with onions and potatoes
Frango Piri Piri – spiced chicken
Porco a Alentejana – pork in wine with clams
Outside the main tourist areas you are fairly unlikely to find translated menus, so here are a few translations to point you in the right direction:
(Bear in mind that you may be presented with all sorts of things at this stage, but none of it is free!)
Azeitonas – olives
Queijo – cheese
Queijo fresco – cottage cheese
Pate de atum/sardinha – tuna/sardine pate
Manteiga – butter
Pao – bread
Salada de polvo – octopus salad (highly recommended)
Gambas/camarao – prawns/shrimps
Rissol/rissois – half circle shaped appetisers, usually containing prawns, pork or cheese and ham.
Croquette – sausage shaped appetiser containing pork, Bacalhau or cheese and ham
Bolinhos de Bacalhau – Bacalhau (salted cod) cakes.
Entradas - Starters
Salada mista – mixed salad
Sopa – soup
Sopa de legumes – vegetable soup
Sopa de mariscos – seafood soup
Sopa de peixe – fish soup
Caldo verde – potato and cabbage soup with chourico
Melao – melon
Carne – Meat and poultry dishes
Carne – meat in general, but usually pork.
Vaca – beef
Vitela – veal
Borrego – lamb
Cabrito – kid
Chourico – spicy sausage
Coelho – rabbit
Frango/galinha – chicken
Pato – duck
Peru – turkey
Porco – pork
Assado – roasted
Cozido – boiled
Estufado – braised
Grelhado – grilled
Na brasa – charcola grilled
No forno – baked
Bitoque – steak with fries, rice, egg and sometimes salad.
Bife – steak
Bife a Portuguese – beef casserole
Caldeirada – stew
Carne de porco a Alentejana – pork with clams in garlic and coriander – a must!
Espetada mista – mixed meat kebab
Feijoada – pork and bean stew
Peixe – Fish
Atum – tuna
Carapau – mackerel
Peixe espada – sword fish
Dourada – bass
Lampreia – lamprey
Linguado – sole
Pescada – hake
Salmao – salmon
Sardinhas – sardines
Truta – trout
Bacalhau – salted cod
Bacalhau a bras – Bacalhau with onions and potatoes
Bacalhau com natas – Bacalhau with cream, like a fisherman’s pie
Mariscos – sea food
Ameijoas – clams
Gambas – prawns
Lulas – squid
Polvo – octopus
Mariscos – shellfish.
Deserts – Sobremesa
Pudim Plan – Crème Caramel
Tarte de Amendoa – Almond Tart
Tarte de Natas – Creamy cake desert
Queijo de Figo – layers of dried figs, almonds, cinnamon & chocolate