Gastronomy

    In Portugal eating is a big thing. We have two main meals and at least two snacks during the day. Eating out is a common practice and a good excuse to meet family and friends. Lunch happens from noon to 2p.m. and takes around one hour. Dinner (from 8p.m. to 10p.m.) is a family or friends meeting and never takes less than 1,5 hours. Main meals have starters, soup, a big dish with fish and potatoes or meat and rice and often finishes with a desert. Snacks (breakfast and something like the 5 o'clock tea) are composed by coffee or milk and a sandwich. Between these meals we may also have some coffee and eat a custard.

    Lunch and Dinner have defined hours and only very central or fast food restaurants may serve you main meals at different hours.

 

Things you should definitely try:

  • Bacalhau: codfish is considered our most famous and bacalhautraditional dish and can be served in 365 different ways, one per each day of the year. Bacalhau com Natas (with milk cream), Bacalhau à Brás (smashed with smashed french fries and onions) and Bacalhau com Broa (roasted with corn bread on top) are the best choices.

  • Grilled sardines: Can be eaten all year round but sardinhasPortuguese tradition says they should be eaten during the months without an “R” (May, June, July and August). During those hot summer days they are just perfect for both lunch and dinner, and something you can't miss. 

  • Carne de Porco à alentejana: fried pork ccarne porcoubes accompanied with fried potatoes and clams. The combination may look strange but definitely tastes good. Lemon and persely are perfect to add more flavours.

  • Alheira: a sort of sausage invented by the Jews to alheirapretend they were eating pork, includes different meats, bread and herbs. Comes with french fries and an egg on top. 

  • Arroz de marisco: a rice stew with lots of different arroz mariscosea food, clams and crab. In a good one you should have a bad time to find some rice on it. Normally one portion is enough to feed one family.


  • Cataplana: is a sort of a frying-pan, like one over cataplanathe other and helps to keep all the ingredients flavours, while cooking. Fish or seafood in the cataplana is something everyone liked to try. 

  • Seafood: boiled, grilled, raw... whatever you wish, if you're in a coastal town you need to taste how tasty it is.

  • Get it simple: grilled fish. Is probably grilled on the coal, comes with boiled potatoes and salad, is perfect for those summer lunches when you don't want to feel stuffed.


Only the braves: traditional heavy meals, all meat based.Feijoada

  • Feijoada: a stew with beans, cowls, cubed pork meat and lots of different sausages. Don't get tricked with this short description: that thing is heavy.


  • Cozido à portuguesa: boiled potatoes, lots of cozidodifferent vegetables and also different types of meat and sausages. A traditional meal of those winter sundays, when all the family gets together.


  • Tripas à moda do Porto: the legend says that tripaswhen Henry the navigator departed to Africa, the inhabitants of Oporto gave his fleet all the meat in town and for a long while had nothing but guts to eat. This is a heavy dish: comes with cow guts, beans and sausages. Only the braves can finish it!


  • Snails: not a main meal but perfect to go caracoiswith a beer or two. Boiled in water and lots of herbs, this is something Portuguese people love to eat while enjoying the sun with their friends.

 

May look confusing:

    Appetizers - When you sit at a restaurant they'll bring you immediately some bread, olives and butter. After you've order they may also bring you wonderful small apetizers for you to eat while you wait. Though they may seem a courtesy, they may cost you almost as much as the meal itself... and they also fill you almost as much as the meal itself!

If you don't want any of these, just don't touch them or tell the waitress that you don't want them right away.

    Fish – in Portugal you can eat excellent fresh fish everywhere. The only thing that may look weird for you is that the fish never comes clean. Why? Portuguese people love to eat fish and also to know which kind of fish it is, and how fresh it is as well. This way, we like to clean it ourselves and refuse to eat just a fillet. At pricey restaurants they may clean it for you, but they'll bring the cooked fish first, show it to you, and then clean it in front of you.

   Local restaurant or tourist trap? One thing several people mention is that in Lisbon is very difficult to tell from the outside if the restaurant is a local's place or a tourist trap. It is indeed but there are some signs that may help you. If you see something like waitresses with a black menu on their hands inviting you to come in; big outside menus with pictures of their dishes; words like “traditional” or “local” written somewhere; or a restaurant located just in the main street (like Rua Augusta) you're probably entering a tourist trap.

    If instead you see some of these signs you're probably at a locals restaurant: no English menus (you may have a bad time then, just ask for the “prato do dia” the special dish of the day, already made and at a convenient price); people eating a soup at the counter; a rather small restaurant; few waitresses rushing from table to table and the most important: the today' specials written in a disposable white table cloth (don't ask me why, but that's a common practice).

    Service – are you having dinner at a very nice place, but the service is SO slow? Maybe it's not. Dinner is a great opportunity to meet friends and family, to talk about the day at work, or about your whole week if you didn't see this person for a while. A nice dinner may take up to 3 hours, probably the waitresses just don't want to rush you. We hate to be rushed while having our meals, and waitresses know that if they rush a costumer, he'll never go back there.

    Tipping – is always a doubt. In Portugal you should tip more or less 10% of your bill and you may tip more if you really appreciated the service. In small caffés just few coins are enough but never tip with 0,01€, 0,02€ and 0,05€ coins: that's rather offensive.

    Wine – is ridiculously cheap compared to your country. In a restaurant ask the waitress's opinion (he'll help you to choose the wine that suits your meal better) or go ahead and ask the house's wine: a decent wine at a great price.

In a supermarket: of course it depends on the region and brand, but decent/normal wines start at 2,50€. A 4,50€ table wine is already good.


Try the 5 meals Portuguese model and walk everywhere. You'll see it! :)