Steaming stews, succulent seafood and rustic favourites pepper the menu of the Portuguese capital.
A bowl of steaming green goodness
A stock swimming with potato chunks, garlic and cabbage is garnished with tasty slices of spicy chorizo. This old-time favourite is soaked up with slices of corn bread known as ‘broa’.
Local tip: Around St Anthony’s Day, June 13th, stalls will sell the fragrant green broth with helpings of sardines.
Sardines browned to perfection – a festival favourite
Grilled, doused in rock salt and olive oil, these slithers of meaty fish are smoking with flavour. Devoured by themselves, or atop slices of corn bread, they’re a street-stall and finger-food speciality.
Local tip: A symbol of city celebrations, the council runs a yearly competition for the most creative graphic design of the beloved fish.
Bacalhau à Brás
A blend of fish and flavours to keep hunger at bay
Comfort food at its best, these shreds of salted cod are scrambled into an onion, garlic and olive oil mix. Match-stick-like fingers of fried potatoes add further substance to this savoury feast that’s usually washed down with a glass of chilled white wine.
A spring and summertime shelled treat
Left to simmer in combinations that include white wine, slithers of white onion, oregano and chilli, these delicacies are cooked until tender. The juicy meat tucked into the shells is fished out with a toothpick and enjoyed by the bowl load.
Pastéis de Bacalhau
Parcels of cod, perfect for a nibble
These soft battered cakes are broken apart to reveal a fluffy white filling of salt cod, potato and onion, while the golden batter is dotted with specks of fragrant parsley. A bundle of these appetising, melt-in-mouth snacks is served with salad, rice, or as part of a tapas selection.
Pataniscas de Bacalhau
Cod fishcakes stepped up a notch
Salted cod makes an appearance on almost every menu in the city. Similar to fishcakes, these larger, but equally moreish, fritters are crunchy on the outside and contain a soft fish, garlic and onion filling. Seasoned with salt and pepper, the morsels are contained in a bronzed cloak of batter, rich in olive oil.
Local tip: Just a couple of these treats will fill you up. Side dishes normally include a rice and bean mix.
Marinated to rich perfection – a peasant dish of juicy calf’s liver
Tasty and filling, these liver slices are a traditional tavern favourite. The slivers are drenched in a sauce of garlic, bay leaves, vinegar and white wine. The marinade is left to soak into the meat overnight, before it’s fried and dished up with some buttery, boiled potatoes.
Local tip: Ask for the liver accompanied by potatoes, “com elas”, or alternatively, “sem elas”.
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (Clams)
Succulent shelled surprises best sampled by the sea shore
Savoury and shiny, these diminutive helpings have a pretty purple tint to the inside of the shell. Garlic, olive oil, white wine and lemon add a seasoned, sharp edge to the shellfish’s naturally earthy flavour. Soak up the lip-smacking sauce with some locally baked bread.
Local tip: The best places to find some of the coast’s tastiest treats is, naturally, in restaurants found close to the sea.
Traditional titbits soaked in flavour
Chicken giblets are stewed in a fusion of tomato, garlic and onion. A simple combination, it’s a classic ‘petisco’ tapas-style option that you’ll see in traditional venues.
Carne de Porco à Portuguesa
Dine out on a pork stew with a home-cooked flavour
Generous in its helpings and flavour, a pot of this meat is deepened by tomatoes, olives, onions, garlic and bay leaves. White wine, pickles, paprika, pepper and parsley lift the flavour of this simple and pocket-friendly dinner option.
Local tip: A stew normally comes with enough filling to feed two or three diners.
An everyday dish loved by the neighbourhood
The perfect afternoon snack to enjoy in a bar, this platter of poultry is spiced up and given a vibrant boost with some red pepper and red wine. Counteract the spice with a glass of cold beer – the most classic of combinations enjoyed by locals while watching a football game.
Caldeirada de Peixe
Catch of the day, all bundled up into one pot
Particular to the restaurant’s location, the fish chunks that add bulk to this scrumptious stew depend on where the supplies are sourced. A surprise selection, you’ll dig into a jumble of seafood, oily fish or squid, along with classic Portuguese herb mixes of garlic, parsley, bay leaf, pepper and paprika. Tomatoes, onions, peppers and potatoes add a hearty base to the dish.
Local tip: The proportion of different fish types very much depends on the restaurant’s spin on the stew.
Peixinhos da Horta (Tempura Green Beans)
Fished straight from the garden – a vegetarian alternative
Offering a change from the city’s heavily meat and fish-based menus, these green beans are doused in flour and egg, before being deep-fried until they resemble vegetable tempura. Bell peppers and squash often make a colourful appearance alongside the classic bean options.
Local tip: According to folklore, these battered bundles inspired Japanese tempura, after Portuguese explorers took it to the far eastern shores.
Polvo à Lagareiro and Bacalhau à Lagareiro
A fish dish floating in olive oil and soaked in flavour
Juicy cuts of squid or cod are roasted to perfection to strike the perfect balance of crispy and tender. Olive oil and plentiful offerings of garlic, onion and pepper are soaked up by the seafood cuts.
Local tip: ‘Floating’ on a bed of olive oil, the name of the dish refers to an oil mill and the volume included in the dish.
Açorda ("de marisco" and "de bacalhau")
A soup to satisfy all cravings from the land and sea
A mix best left for a particularly hungry day, this hearty concoction has slices of bread and garlic at its core. A paste of coriander, vinegar, salt and poached eggs is lathered over the top. Shrimp and cod are usually thrown in to add a protein boost to the broth.
Local tip: You’ll find this filling pot in most restaurants across the city – both traditional and high end.
Plate, or no plate – a no-frills meat and egg platter
This combination calls many a country home but what makes this fusion of steak and hand-cut French fries particularly Portuguese is the addition of olive oil and garlic. Tucked into a sandwich, or plated up, a perfectly fried egg is placed on top and sliced through, before it’s tucked into.
Cozido à Portuguesa (Meat and Vegetable Stew)
A particularly Portuguese dish with something for everyone
A stew that has almost no end to its ingredients, no trip to the capital is complete without a sampling of this mish-mash. Pork, shin of beef, chicken, bacon and cuts of cured meat provide endless flavour, while specks of greenery are added in the form of Portuguese kale, carrots, turnip, potatoes and peas.
Ginjinha (Sour Cherry Liqueur)
Cherry pick this sweet liquor when you’re out and about
Best sipped at room temperature, this apéritif is bound to get your appetite going. Syrupy and sour, you can pop into a ginginha bar, where you’ll be given a shot glass with a handful of the juicy fruit to be found at the bottom.
Local tip: Ask for your glass with or without cherries. If you have a real sweet tooth, you can savour the liquor from a chocolate cup.
Pastéis de Nata and "de Belém"
A pastry tart that’s close to locals’ hearts
These diminutive delicacies have a crunch of puff pastry surrounding a generous scoop of wobbly egg custard. With a hint of vanilla, these treats are sweet and best accompanied by a sprinkling of cinnamon and a shot of espresso.
Local tip: Tarts produced in the Belém area are particularly special – said to be the best, their secret ingredients are closely guarded.
Rice pudding but not as you know it
A blend of rice and milk is heated and jazzed up with the sweet addition of condensed milk and cinnamon. Scooped into a ramekin, you’ll often see it garnished with raisins, lemon and cinnamon sticks.