Fresh, local ingredients are the hallmark of Portuguese cuisine
Cooking is rigorously regional: meaty and robust in the north, Mediterranean in the south
Portugal enjoys some of the world's juiciest pork and tastiest ham
Portuguese cuisine rarely travels well. The cooking of mainland Europe’s westernmost country is deeply rooted in the freshest local ingredients.
Superlative seafood, sun-ripened fruit, lamb raised on flower-speckled meadows, free-range pigs gorging on acorns beneath oak forests. Without them, it just doesn’t taste the same.
So while diners worldwide crowd Italian trattorias, French bistros and Spanish tapas bars, Portuguese restaurants abroad generally cater to melancholy emigrants seeking in vain to matar saudades (kill their longing) for mom’s home-cooked food.
Things are changing, though. The success of Portuguese chefs like George Mendes in New York and Nuno Mendes (no relation) in London is generating a global buzz about the cooking of their homeland.
Regular visitors have long been in on the secret, but here are 20 reasons why Portugal should be on every foodie traveler’s list.
1. Piscivore perfection
In Europe, only Icelanders eat more fish than the Portuguese. Superstar chef Ferran Adria says seafood from Portugal’s Atlantic waters is the world’s best – and he’s Spanish.
Markets glimmer with a startling variety, from baby cuttlefish to U-boat-sized tuna. If your food heaven is fresh seabass expertly barbequed with a hint of lemon, garlic and olive oil, this is the place.
Best eaten by the sea in restaurants like Sao Roque in Lagos, Restinga in Alvor, Furnas in Ericeira, Azenhas do Mar or Restaurante da Adraga west of Sintra, Ribamar in Sesimbra, or Doca do Cavacas on Madeira island.
2. Liquid gold
Drive the backroads of the Alentejo, Beira Interior and Tras-os-Montes regions and you’ll weave through endless olive groves. Olive oil is the basis of Portuguese cooking, whether it’s used to slow-cook salt-cod,