Though often overshadowed by its neighbors to the north and east, like French and Italian cooking, Portuguese cooking has unique and distinctive elements that make it not only delicious but memorable.
Portugal has a rich culinary tradition dating back hundreds of years. Bordered on two sides by ocean and with a long history of seafaring, it’s not surprising that many Portuguese recipes feature fresh seafood. What’s perhaps more surprising is the influence of other cultures on typical Portugal cooking.
Exploration and Ingredients
Portuguese recipes tend to have a much bigger diversity of ingredients than French or Italian cooking. This may because for hundreds of years Portugal led the world in discovery and exploration.
Sailors and explorers returned from the New World, the Far East, and beyond with new foods and revolutionary ideas about cooking that not surprisingly found their way onto the plates in homes throughout the country.
Today, the most popular dishes in Portugal may have spices from Asia, herbs first discovered in America, and of course, seafood caught just offshore one of the country’s many seaports and harbors.
Yet for all this diversity in ingredients, Portuguese cooking also has a reputation for simplicity and rusticness, especially when compared to fussier French cooking. Many dishes include things like day-old bread, common broths or stocks, or fresh seafood or vegetables. The typical Portuguese family never wastes anything, so simple, satisfying meals are often made from whatever ingredients are at hand or whichever fresh, simple ingredients are found at the outdoor market that day.
The result is a soulful, satisfying cuisine that may not be the most well-known in the world, but certainly ranks among the best. Attribute it to the country’s abundant sunshine, its relationship to the oceans, or to the purity of its people, but eating in Portugal ranks as one of life’s most rewarding experiences.