Portugal Dining

There are a few things to know about Portugal dining that can be helpful. Although Portugal dining etiquette is nothing to be feared there are a few tips about things to do. Table manners are formal and Continental. If dining in a formal atmosphere or invited to join a Portugese family dinner there are a few things that are good to know. The couverts, or appetizers brought at the beginning of the meal are very much like the idea of Spanish tapas. Food is served in large quantities and fairly inexpensive with 8 Euros buying a hearty café meal and under 25 Euros enough to get a great meal in most restaurants.

Couverts include bread, cheese and an olive oil mixture for dipping the bread into and are a customary start to a meal. Some restaurants charge for this while others don’t but all normally start guests off with this so be sure to ask if there’s an extra charge. Casa Aleixo in Porto has been serving hearty, family-style, traditional Portugese food since 1948. For a truly authentic experience try lunch or dinner there and don’t miss their specialties of octopus or the baked veal.

Keep in mind when dining out that tipping is common and is usually from 10 to15 percent. It’s customary to leave a little bit of food on your plate as well as to put your napkin to the right of your plate which means you’re finished eating.

Portugese cuisine has had a lasting influence in far-off places such as Macau and Goa, yet Portugal food is extremely under-represented outside of the country. It is often confused with Spanish cuisine but is infact quite distinct. Simple ingredients that are impeccably prepared defines Portugal food. Fish, meat, olive oil, tomato and spices as well as hearty soups, homemade cheeses and breads and blends of shellfish and meat are emphasized.

In the Estremadura area, including Lisbon, seafood is famous but on the pricey side. Portugese people have had a lasting love affair with fish because of their situation by the ocean making Portugal fishing greatly accessible. Fresh fish is the thing to try when visiting. Clams and mussels as well as other shellfish are high on the list as well as high in quality when it come to Portugal food.

Grilled skewers of beer with garlic ( Espetada) are popular as is a single dish meal of beef, pork, sausage and vegetables(Cozido a Portugesa),suckling pig (leitao), and an slightly unusual blend of pork and clams (Porco a Alentejana). The cataplana is a traditional dish to cook food in Portugal. It’s a wok-type dish which closes up tightly to seal in flavors and comes in various sizes. When visiting any part of the Algarve a well known and traditional dish to try is something from the cataplana. It’s especially popular with shrimp and mussel dishes whcih are as fresh as they come straight from the Atlantic.

Naturally food in Portugal varies by region but fresh fish and shellfish are on almost every menu. The national dish is called “Bacalhau” which is dried, salted cod and you’ll find this virtually everywhere! Grilled sardines and mackerel are popular in coastal towns and “arroz de marisco”, a mixture of shrimp, oysters, lobster and crabs is a great way to try a mixture of seafood.

Food in Portugal includes Cozida a Portugesa which is a thick stew made with meat. Roast suckling pig ("leitao assado") is a big favorite in the north but is also found centrally such as in Fatima. Lunch is a grand affair lasting up to 2 hours! Served between noon and 2pm or between 1pm and 3pm and dinner is normally after 8pm.

Portugal food and wine go together like peas in a pod. Wines in the country have changed quite a bit over the last decade and many of the newer wines are domestic varieties with distinct flavors. The locals are perfect at pairing Portugal food and wine so its good to ask about which wines go best with which dishes so you can enjoy the perfect compliment. Pairing Portugal food and wine is common in the everyday and many people enjoy a glass with, during, and/or after a meal. The Portugese attitude toward food is simple, traditional and imaginative. Enjoying good food and the social aspects of dining out is a cherished way of life.

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