Thursday, 17 May 2012 00:00
The gastronomy of northern Portugal is one of the richest and most varied in the country. A region of traditional flavors, the North invites visitors to try out its finest dishes, served with exquisite wines and complemented by sophisticated desserts.
The restaurant menus throughout the coastal area include fresh fish and shellfish dishes, as well as other delicacies such as trout and lamprey eel from freshwater rivers. Some of the finest recipes in the area use salted cod, and sardines are the “queen of the night” in Oporto's most popular festivity -- the feast of S. João (St. John) in which Sardinhas Assadas (grilled sardines) are particularly popular.
Inland areas supply succulent and tender meats that make this region a major attraction for hunting enthusiasts. In the inland Northern areas, we find smoked meats and sausages in Chaves and Lamego, spicy garlic sausage ("alheiras") in Mirandela, and pickled pork sausage ("salpicões") in Vinhais.
The desserts are based on centuries old recipes, originally concocted in convents, that provide the perfect complement to any meal.
The North's gastronomical diversity may be appreciated in modern restaurants or in cozy, local taverns. Gastronomy and handicraft fairs also provide privileged points of contact with the North's typical cuisine.
Get to know the delights of a typical Portuguese meal. For those who appreciate the pleasures of gastronomy, Northern Portuguese cuisine provides many specialities, made with tradition and ingredients from each region. In a Northern meal, we begin with starters, the first moment of pleasure experienced at the table of any traditional restaurant. The options vary from bolinhos de bacalhau (cod cakes) or rissóis (battered delicacies) to be found in Porto`s Ribeira, with a view of the river, to the iscas (potato fritters) with cod, octopus or cured ham. Soup is also a must, whether you opt for caldo verde from Minho (made with vegetables, potato and accompanied by chouriço sausage), or the famous stone soup from Trás-os-Montes (including meat).
Now that your stomach is prepared, it is time for the main meal. For those who prefer fish, there are many specialities with cod, which are prepared in different ways from region to region. In summer, hake and trout are particularly sought after, as well as the famous sardines. For meat eaters, the North of Portugal has some of the country`s most famous dishes, for all tastes. For those who prefer substantial food, there is the Feijoada de Trás-os-Montes (stew of various meats with beans) or Arroz de Cabidela (rice with chicken blood) from Minho. You could opt as well for Tripas à Moda do Porto (Porto style tripe), Rojões de Porco (fried pork nuggets), or Cozido à Portuguesa (a speciality made from several types of meat with rice, potatoes and vegetables) or, why not, the famous francesinha (meat sandwich with cheese and spicy sauce) served in Porto.
To finish off this meal, there is still enough room for one of the many desserts prepared by the culinary experts of the North, including leite creme (crème brulée), filhoses (fried cake) from Trás-os-Montes, clarinhas de Fão (pumpkin cake from Fão) good for hot weather and, for the colder weather, toucinho-do-céu (almond dessert cakes), sonhos (sweet pastry dessert) and rabanadas (fried bread delicacy with cinnamon), typical specialities of Christmas in Portugal.
However, Portuguese meals are not just about food. The meal must be accompanied by various drinks, from wine produced in Douro and Minho regions to the limpid waters of Trás-os-Montes.