Tasty things to try in Lisbon

Every city has its own gastronomic flavour, and Lisbon is no exception. In fact, Portugal’s capital has many flavours, both savoury and sweet. And alcoholic, of course.

1. Ginjinha

This sour-cherry liqueur was originally sold by an ex-monk after the dissolution of the religious orders in 1834. He opened a small shop in Largo de Sao Domingos square (right off Rossio square), and the drink quickly became popular — and it remains so today. The original shop is still operating, but it’s no longer the only one — we had a shot with in a chocolate cup at one of the establishment of a competitor.

2. Portuguese wine

Stop into any supermarket and pick up a bottle of whatever catches your fancy. Most people have heard of Port, produced in the Douro Valley in the north of the country, and the Minho region’s Vinho Verde is growing in popularity as well.

Cod cakes.

Cod cakes.

But Portugal produces a wide range of other wines too, both red and white, and you can get a taste for these at ViniPortugal in Praça do Comercio.

3. Codfish cakes (and bacalao in general)

This popular breadcrumbed tapa is ubiquitous in Lisbon, and is just one of the many ways of preparing bacalao (cod). Portugal is the third-biggest consumer of cod in the world, which is pretty strange considering they don’t have any cod in their waters. It has to be imported, traditionally packed in salt, and it’s then soaked in water for a couple of days before being cooked. Locals say there are 365 ways of preparing this fish, and you can even buy calendars with a recipe a day. Mad.

4. Chouriço assado

On our first night in the city, we went on a fado and tapas walking tour, and one of the dishes we were served while listening to the emotive sounds of fado was chouriço assado. The sausage was balanced on the top of a shallow dish which had bars across it — just for decoration, I thought. A tourmate suggested I cut up the sausage, but I was stopped by the fado singer himself, who motioned at the dish and shook his finger at me. All became clear when the waitress returned and set a liquid in the dish on fire — hence “chouriço assado“, barbecued sausage.

5. Pastéis de nata

You can buy pastéis de nata (cream pastries) in almost any bakery, but the best are from Pastéis de Belem in the suburb of Belem. You’ll have to take a half-hour tram or bus trip from the city centre, and you’ll almost certainly have to wait in line, but it’s worth it. Each delicious warm pastry costs €1.05 and melts in your mouth. The filling is closer to custard than cream, and if you get it to take away you’ll be given small sachets of sugar and cinnamon to adorn your pastry with.

Pasteis de Belem.

Pasteis de Belem.

6. Sardines

Somehow, despite seeing them everywhere and wanting to try them, we still haven’t eaten sardines. In Lisbon, have them fresh off the grill with a salad, or pick up an attractively decorated can as a souvenir. And if you’re not keen on fish, there’s always the chocolate variety.

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