Portuguese dishes you should enjoy by the beach
Whether it’s the peak of summer and the bathing season is fully on, or it’s simply a pleasant warm day, heading to one of the beaches near Lisbon can be a beautiful way of spending some time.
If you want to fully embrace the local customs when it comes to spending time at the beach, we have previously written about how to spend a day at the beach, Portuguese style. Today, we’re focusing on the most palatable side of life, exploring the dishes that normally taste best with a view towards the ocean. There are some foods that, because of the proximity to their origin in the ocean, or simply because they go well with the sun and a certain state of mind, do get enhanced in a beach setting.
These are the best Portuguese foods you should eat at beach restaurants:
Salada de polvo | octopus salad
To understand Portuguese beach food culture you need to get acquainted with the verb petiscar. It stands for eating petiscos, that is, small portions of dishes that are ideal to share. Petiscos can be appetizers to main meals, can constitute a full meal by themselves when a variety of plates makes it to the table, or can simply be enjoyed as a snack, when something mode mundane like a sandwich or a pastry just won’t do. There is something absolutely satisfying about ending a beach day sitting at an outdoor bar or restaurant eating petiscos and drinking cold beer or a nice bottle of wine. Salada de polvo, that is, chilled octopus salad, is one of those typical petiscos that most beach restaurants will have. The tiny pieces of octopus are cooked to achieve a texture that combines softness with a certain bite. They are mixed with tiny pieces of onions and sometimes peppers, in a tart marinade with olive oil and vinegar, topped with fresh coriander. As octopus salad is kept cold, this is a great petisco to order when you don’t want to wait for something to be prepared from scratch.
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato | tangy clams
If you’re an adept of the art of bread dipping, clams Bulhão Pato style were meant for you to enjoy. This recipe involves clams cooked in a zesty sauce made with lemon, white wine, and heaps of coriander. The flavors of the sea get together with the citrus taste for a refreshing seafood experience that pairs incredibly well with chilled white wine or the super refreshing vinho verde, which you will not easily find in other parts of the world. If you’d like to try your hand at amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, we have an easy to follow recipe you can make at home.
Choco frito | fried cuttlefish
If Spain has fried calamari rings, Portugal has fried cuttlefish strips. If you like squid, chances are you’ll love its chunkier relative, which tastes divine breaded and deep fried. Choco frito is a specialty from the town of Setúbal, to the south of Lisbon, but can also be found as a petisco in some beach bars and restaurants. When served with side dishes like fries and salad, fried cuttlefish is considered a main dish, but you can also order it as a nibble. Salty enough to make you want to go for another round of drinks, choco frito usually tastes best with a little squeeze of lemon that compliments its succulent flesh with a crunchy golden exterior.
Lingueirão grelhado | grilled razor clams
Even though they are in decline because of overfishing, razor clams can still be sometimes found in coastal areas, such as Sesimbra, to the south of Lisbon. If you’re not familiar with seafood besides shrimp, crab and lobster, Portugal certainly is a country where you can do a quick masterclass on all the incredible creatures the ocean has to offer – see mariscada below. Razor clams have the appearance of fat eels inside a long razor looking shell. Also known in Portuguese as canivetes or navalhas, razor clams can be eaten as an appetizer simply grilled with a last-minute squeeze of fresh lemon, or cooked in Bulhão Pato sauce. If you long for a more substantial meal, order arroz de lingueirão, a saucy risotto somehow similar to arroz de marisco (described below), but only with razor clams as the responsibles for bringing to your plate the briny flavors of the ocean.
Peixe grelhado | grilled fish
Grilled fish is a testament to the simplicity of Portuguese cuisine, which makes ingredients shine for what they really are. Grilled fish is one of the most common meals in Lisbon, especially when you eat out, as most people don’t have the opportunity to charcoal-grill at home. Grilled fish dishes are as straightforward as they come: you pick a type of fresh fish and the side dishes won’t usually vary much. Expect boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables like carrots, broccoli or green beans, and perhaps a simple vinegary salad with lettuce, tomato and onions. When you order grilled fish at a restaurant in Portugal you’ll notice that some fish dishes are listed in menus as a portion, while others mention the price per kilo of fish. When you see this, you can easily assume that the portions are made with aquaculture fishes, while the price per weight refers to wild fish, which tends to be considerably more expensive but have higher quality too. The exceptions of this rule are sardines and tuna, which are never farmed. The most common species to have by the portion include seabass (robalo), golden bream (dourada) and grouper (garoupa). While more less ordinary species you can find by the piece and kilo, particularly in coastal restaurants, will feature white grouper (cherne), conger (congro), snapper (pargo), Atlantic croaker (corvina), swordfish (espadarte), sole (linguado) and monkfish (tamboril).
Mariscada | mixed seafood platter
If your budget allows, there’s nothing more indulgent than feasting on a mariscada by the beach. Mariscada is the Portuguese word for seafood feast, which can include from a few varieties to a multitude of delicious sea creatures cooked in a variety of ways. More often than not, though, mariscadas feature mostly steamed seafood, including shrimp, prawns, crab and lobster. Besides the simply prepared protein, common items featured in a good mariscada may also include saucy clams and sapateira recheada, that is, stuffed crab with a creamy concoction of shredded crab meat and mustard, ideal for spreading on little pieces of toast. If you want to explore wonderful seafood options beyond the most obvious species you can also find elsewhere in the world, we recommend trying percebes, the Jurassic looking goose barnacles that often intimidate those who haven’t tried them before, and that Andrew Zimmern also tasted when shooting an episode of Bizarre Foods in Portugal. Other interesting seafood and shells you can taste include scarlet prawns (carabineiros), bean clam (conquilhas), conch (búzios), cockles (berbigão) and sea urchin (ouriço-do-mar). Still hungry for more? Here are our top 10 seafoods to try in Portugal.
Cataplana de marisco | seafood cataplana
Cataplana stands for the name of the pot where this dish is cooked. To cook a cataplana you first sautee the ingredients to sweat some juices and allow for the flavors to start developing, and then close the lid and let all the ingredients steam with no chance for the aromas to escape. Seafood cataplanas are a sea-side speciality in Portugal, particularly in the southern region of the Algarve where they are typical, as an inheritance from the moorish occupation times that survived and evolved during the centuries. The ingredients featured in cataplana vary and may even feature a surf and turf of pork meat and clams. Cataplana de mariscos will normally include at least prawns and shells like clams, as well as a vegetable base of potatoes, peppers, onions and tomatoes. A real treat!
Arroz de marisco | seafood rice
Arroz de marisco is not to be mistaken with Spanish paella. The Portuguese take on seafood rice features rice and a selection of seafood in a saucy concoction with tomatoes and fresh parsley. Some say the addition of peri-peri is crucial for a little heat than enhances the flavor but, keep in mind that if you do like hot food, you can always ask for a bottle of peri-peri and add a splash straight into your plate. Just like it happens with cataplana, the creatures that make it to a serving of arroz de marisco depend on the budget and the kind of restaurant you dine at. Common seafood involves prawns, clams and mussels, while premium ingredients include crab and lobster. This and other types of Portuguese wet rice dishes are prepared with arroz carolino, a local variety of short grain rice similar to arborio, risotto rice, known to be ideal for saucy rice dishes.
Feijoada de búzios ou choco | Beans stew with conch or cuttlefish
If you know Brazilian feijoada, or even its predecessor from Portugal, you know that it’s a bean dish loaded with all kinds of meat cuts. Even though this is indeed the most popular type of feijoada, we also have seafood feijoadas, namely those with conch (feijoada de choco) or cuttlefish (feijoada de búzios). These types of bean stews are normally prepared with white or red beans, and served with steamed white rice, ideal to soak up all the tomatoey juices from the stew.
Sangria is a drink of Spanish origin, but here in Portugal it is also so prevalent, particularly during the warmer months, that it has somehow become a local staple too. Sangria recipes differ between Portugal and Spain, but mostly depending on who’s the bartender. Traditional sangria consists of a combination of red wine, soda, some fruit like oranges and apples, and cinnamon sticks, mixed together with plenty of ice. But contemporary variations abound. When you hit a beach bar in Portugal, don’t be surprised to find sangria cocktails such as sangria branca, with white wine, sangria de frutos vermelhos, with red fruits, or sangria de espumante, with sparkling wine. If sangria doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are many other refreshing Portuguese drinks you can enjoy, including non-alcoholic beverages too.
Now that you know what to order when you’re eating out by the beach in Portugal, we’d love to recommend to you, in no particular order, some of our favorite beach restaurants and bars near Lisbon. A meal at any of these restaurants is worth a day trip from Lisbon to nearby towns such as Costa da Caparica, Ericeira, Sintra, Peniche or Sesimbra:
📍Marisqueira das Furnas: Rua das Furnas 3, 2655-288 Ericeira
📍Búzio: Av. Eugene Levy 56, 2705-315 Sintra
📍Neptuno Grill: Rua Bartolomeu Dias, 2705-300 Praia das Maçãs, Colares
📍Restaurante da Adraga: Praia da Adraga 143, 2705-063 Colares
📍Borda d’Água: Praia da Morena, 2825-491 Costa da Caparica
📍A Pastorinha: Praia de Carcavelos, Avenida Marginal, 2775-604 Carcavelos
📍Tasca do Joel: Rua do Lapadusso 73, 2520-370 Peniche
📍Golfinho Azul: Rua das Ribas 24, 2640 Encarnação, Ericeira
📍Restaurante Azenhas do Mar: Azenhas do Mar, 2705-104 Colares, Sintra
Besides these, you can find even more recommendations for beach restaurants over at our Instagram, where we’re always happy to chat with you about Lisbon, Portuguese food, and all things Portugal related. Please tag us: @tasteoflisboa #tasteoflisboa
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