One of the more fun and interesting things about visiting a new place is trying the traditional foods! Sometimes you love them and sometimes you don’t, but either way, memories are made! We definitely found some gems while visiting Portugal!
We wasted no time getting started as upon arrival at the hotel we were greeted by a lovely tray of Pastel de Nata, a flaky pastry shell filled with egg custard, which is the most famous of all the Portuguese desserts.
We soon discovered that these lovely little gems were available just about everywhere! Having never heard of them before it was funny that only one week before my trip, my mom told me she had just had the most amazing desert at a local restaurant, a Portuguese Tart!
The most famous place to get Pastel de Nata is also where they originate from. Pasteis de Belem is located in the neighborhood of the same name and can easily be spotted because there is always a line out the door. They’ve been using the same secret recipe since the monks of the Jeronimo Monastery opened the shop 1834!
This is what one of my fellow bloggers had to say about them:
These pastries are ephemeral bites of cinnamon and warmth. They must be eaten right away, never saved for later. Every coffee shop in Portugal produces an imitation, but none quite captures the lightness of the dough, the creaminess of the filling. These imitations even bear a different name: “pasteis de nata.” Because there is only one place in the world where you can get “pasteis de Belém.”
There were Pastelarias (bakeries) on just about every corner in every city we visited and we definitely enjoyed visiting them! Some of the other items we tried were the Bola de Berlim which is essentially a round fluffy donut coated with sugar and filled with various flavors of pastry cream, the palmier recheado, a palmier sandwich filled with creme that tasted a lot like an American Twinkie, the Pão de Ló, a Portuguese sponge cake, and my personal favorite the Queijadas De Sintra which is a little cheesecake tart made with cinnamon.
The Other Treats!
Upon being seated most restaurants will offer you a small plate of miniature cheeses, a basket of bread and maybe even a plate of meats or olives. Keep in mind that unlike in other countries these items are not complimentary, in fact you’ll be charged for each piece of bread, wheel of cheese, pat of butter or spread package that you open. Upon further examination we noticed that these menu items had a PP after them and are sold “per piece”.
Back to the cheese… As I said most restaurants gave us these little wheels of cheese as appetizers and we really loved them! We tried a number of different types and for the most part they were fairly mild with a medium texture. There were a few that were a little more on the fragrant side, but all were great! I’m quite sure that given the opportunity, Simon would have eaten just cheese at every meal! It took a few meals but we soon realized there was a proper way to eat them. Slicing off the top of the rind created a little bowl of sorts which made it easy to scoop out the cheese. It made a great spread for the bread too!
Pastéis de bacalhau, or codfish pastries are another very popular item in Portuguese cuisine and are made up mainly of potatoes, bacalhau (codfish) and eggs. They are deep-fried and can also be stuffed with other ingredients like the one in my photo which is filled with melted cheese. Careful when you take a bite or the hot cheese can burn your hand and mouth. We had these in a number of locations and while it wasn’t my personal favorite Simon liked them enough to have them a number of times.