Fish and seafood

On the coast, seafood is pre-eminent: crabs, prawns, crayfish, cuttlefish, squid, clams and huge barnacles are all fabulous (most of it from the Algarve), while fish on offer usually includes hake (pescada), salmon (salmão, often farmed), bream (dourada), seabass (robalo), and – in the north – trout (truta).

The most typical Portuguese fish dish is that created from bacalhau (dried, salted cod), which is much better than it sounds. It’s virtually the national dish with reputedly 365 different ways of preparing it – served with boiled egg and black olives, made into a pie, char-grilled or cooked in a traditional copper cataplana, the list is endless. Almost every restaurant in the country boasts a bacalhau dish, and some cook little else. Perhaps the best to try are bacalhau á bras (fried with egg, onions and potatoes) and bacalhau com natas (baked in cream).

Grilled or barbecued sardines provide one of the country’s most familiar and appetizing smells, and in the Algarve and elsewhere you should definitely try a cataplana, named after the wok-like lidded copper vessel in which it’s cooked. The best cataplanas are made with seafood, as is arroz de marisco, a bumper serving of mixed seafood in a gloopy rice; massa de peixe/marisco is a similar dish but with noodles – cataplanas, arroz and massa dishes are usually served for a minimum of two people. Other seafood specialities include a caldeirada de peixe, basically a fish stew, and açorda (a rural bread stew traditionally made from stale bread mixed with herbs, garlic, eggs and whatever farmers found to hand), at its best served with shellfish. Migas is very similar, but is usually slightly drier. Look out too for feijoada, a rich stew made from beans, either with fish or meat.