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Top 10 foods to try in Lisbon

By Lucy Pepper

Lisbon is a European capital filled with new-wave Portuguese cuisine and bustling street markets. Grab yourself a bargain flight and take a foodie holiday.
Lisbon is a European capital filled with new-wave Portuguese cuisine and bustling street markets. Grab yourself a bargain flight and take a foodie holiday.
Top 10 things to eat in Lisbon
Lisbon is the on-trend-destination for 2017 and a bargain city to visit compared to other European capitals. With smart new restaurants offering new-wave Portuguese dishes, old-style establishments serving classics and plenty of bars and food markets, it’s the perfect foodie destination.

Don't leave Lisbon without trying...

Polvo à lagareiro (octopus roasted in olive oil)

If there is one thing the Portuguese never stint on, it’s olive oil (azeite). ‘À lagareiro’ means ‘in the style of the olive oil producer’, or rather, the person who had a whole tank (lagar) of olive oil at their disposal. Octopus tentacles are roasted in lashings of olive oil, with plenty of garlic and salt, and served with ‘batatas a murro’ (punched potatoes) which are boiled, then finished off alongside the octopus in its oil, having first been punched to break the skin. This is also a common way of cooking bacalhau (salt cod).


These smoked sausages have a true backstory – it's thought that they came about in the 16th Century, when the Jewish community were hiding from the Portuguese Inquisition by pretending to have converted to Catholicism. A lack of pork sausages hanging in the pantry was a big giveaway that they hadn’t converted at all, so the alheira was invented to look and smell like a cured pork sausage. They're made with chicken or game, garlic and bread (and usually pork fat, so absolutely not kosher), then smoked. They have a slightly vinegary taste which cuts through the clagginess of the soft bread stuffing. If you eat alheira in a restaurant, it will be usually be fried, sometimes grilled, and served with chips or rice and the ubiquitous fried egg that the Portuguese love so much.

Ovos mexidos com farinheira (scrambled eggs with farinheira)

Farinheira is another smoked sausage pretending to be a pork sausage, which contains just flour, fat and the flavourings of a chouriço (salt, garlic and paprika). It melts into the texture of dumplings when it is cooked into scrambled eggs and it is often served as a starter.

Favas com enchidos (broad bean stew with sausages)

A mixture of cured sausages – chouriço, farinheira and morcela (blood sausage with cumin) – join short ribs and belly pork in this slow-cooked broad bean stew. Mint and coriander are sometimes added to the stew in good quantities and give it a deep, interesting flavour not found in other meat stews.

Cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese stew)

Like many traditional Portuguese dishes, cozido isn’t pretty. Its name literally means ‘a boil up, Portuguese style’ and that's exactly what it is. To make it, various sausages are placed in the base of a huge deep pan: chouriço, farinheira and morcela are the the basics. Cuts of pork and beef (some lean meat, but usually plenty of belly, ribs and chunks of ears, feet and noses) are placed on top of the sausages. Above that is a layer of peeled potatoes, and then cabbage, carrots, green beens and sometimes turnips. The pan is topped up with water and boiled. It sounds (and looks) awful, but the intense flavours of the sausages filters up through the meat and vegetables, imparting their distinct flavour along the way. Pasta and rice is often cooked in the resulting broth to be served alongside the rest. It is the favourite dish of many Portuguese as it's traditionally eaten as Sunday lunch.

Queijo de Azeitão (Azeitão sheep’s milk cheese) 

The Portuguese are fanatical about cheese, mostly sheep cheeses, which tend to be the most interesting, plus the stinkier ones. Queijo de Azeitão is a PDO cheese made about 35km away from Lisbon. It has a buttery centre which you scoop out onto bread or crackers. The Portuguese find any excuse to eat cheese; as a starter, at the end of a meal, or any time of the day just because.

Peixe e marisco (fish and seafood)

Apart from eating a lot of meat, the Portuguese take advantage of the 800 kilometre coastline and eat beautifully fresh fish and seafood. The best way to eat fish is simply grilled over charcoal. Many fish are eaten throughout the year, such as robalo (sea bass), dourada (sea bream), garoupa (grouper), cherne (wreckfish, a wonderful meaty kind of grouper) and atum (tuna) and salmonetes (red mullet). However, the best time to eat Portugal’s best known fish, the sardine, is in the early summer, grilled and served on a thick slice of sourdough bread with grilled bell pepper salad. Seafood is also best eaten simply steamed or boiled, or in very simple concoctions such as dressed sapateira/carangueijo (crab), amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams with garlic, coriander and lemon juice) or gambas al ajillo (large prawns in garlic, strangely called the Spanish name instead of the Portuguese). The purest taste of the sea comes in the form of percebes (gooseneck barnacles) that look like dinosaur claws.

Torresmos (Portuguese pork scratchings) 

Torresmos come in many different forms, there is even a kind of sliced ham version, that looks like those soap bars made from soap offcuts. The one to look out for is torresmos from the Alentejo, usually found in tascas, the Portuguese equivalent of a “greasy spoon” café. Just like pork scratchings, they are made from fried pork skin and fat, but in this version much of the lard is sealed into the torresmos. Worth nibbling on for the intense pork flavour.

Bacalhau à brás (scrambled eggs and salt cod)

Salt cod is famously cooked in hundreds of different ways. Having been salt cured and then rehydrated, the flesh is very versatile. It can be flaked or shredded without becoming a mush, like fresh fish might. Bacalhau à Brás is made with flaked salt cod, pan-fried with finely cut potato chips, then enveloped in creamy scrambled eggs and topped off with black olive and parsley. It is supreme comfort food, and just another way of eating eggs, something the Portuguese are very fond of. 

Sericaia com ameixa de Elvas (a soft eggy cake and a crystallized plum) 

There are thousands of cakes and puddings in Portugal in which the main ingredient is egg. Sericaia is at the lighter end of the scale. Made from eggs, milk and a little flour, dusted with cinnamon and usually served with its traditional accompaniment of an Elvas plum, a plum crystallised in its own syrup. It is a dense but light pudding with which to end a meal. Of course, no trip to Lisbon will ever be complete without eating a pastel de nata. They can be found in most cafés in the city, including a handful which specialize in these world-famous custard tarts. The best are the ones with the most buttery pastry and the wobbliest custard.

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