Summer isn’t summer in Portugal without its typical seafood festivities and feasts, shared with friends and family around a long table. We can jump in the car and drive for miles to the seafood festival in a coastal village, we can head to the seafood restaurant across the street or we can invite (or be invited) to a homemade Mariscada (seafood feast). It can be a weekend lunch, it can happen after a beach day on vacation or after work, especially on a Friday night. There’s no better way to say goodbye to the week and say hello to the weekend.
It’s the Portuguese’s favorite summer ritual. Get ready to eat and socialize, a lot: you’ll be spending at least 3 hours at the table, with generous plates of seafood that just keep coming, along with great Verde wine or cold beer and lively conversations that bounce back and forth. What is the Portuguese people’s favorite seafood? We polled restaurants and friends. There was a great deal of input and consensus was difficult. But, among such a large variety of seafood and particular tastes, we are able to discover the Portuguese’s Top 10 when they come together for a seafood feast. Here they are:
1. Goose barnacles Its appearance doesn’t make the best first impression – they look like a wrinkled finger – but any well-respected Portuguese is not intimidated, because they know the delicacy that awaits them: the seafood that tastes the most like the sea. In addition to this flavor that will be part of our summer memories all year long, perhaps being at the top of the list is also due to the national admiration for the bravery of the seafarers that catch them: they wait for the low tide and then descend the steep cliffs of the rocky beaches in order to collect the goose barnacles as the waves come and go. They are quickly cooked with salt (some add garlic and bay leaf), served immediately and ideally eaten while still warm, in order to savor all the freshness of the sea. 2. Slipper lobster Slipper lobsters are like mini lobsters and this comparison is thanks to their reddish shell and extremely tasty, but less intense and slightly sweeter meat. Their heads are also stuffed with roe for those who enjoy this delicacy, served with a delicious verde wine! Did someone say seafood party?
3. Spider crab This huge crab, which displays a dozen long tentacles, is one of the kings of the Portuguese-style seafood feast. With the help of a small hammer, its red shell is removed so that its tender white meat can be thoroughly enjoyed. It should be savored as natural as possible – the only way to truly taste it – after a maximum 20 minute cooking time. Get your napkin in place and get ready to get your hands dirty and lick your fingers clean. 4. Stuffed stone crab A seafood feast isn’t a seafood feast without this staple. Smaller and rounder than the spider crab, every part of this crab is put to good use: the meat of the shell is the starting point for preparing a wonderful stuffing, to which pickles, boiled eggs, parsley and mayonnaise are added and then served in the shell itself. The legs, arranged next to it, are fleshy and, although they are cooked, they also require the typical seafood hammer so that every little piece can be properly savored. Ideal for enjoying with crackers or toasted bread. The perfect appetizer and one of the most traditional when it comes to an authentic Portuguese seafood spread. 5. Bulhão Pato It's not seafood, it's the broth. That's what we realize from our survey: what the Portuguese crave for the most is the broth! Olive oil, garlic, white wine, lemon, salt, pepper and cilantro – the ingredients that are the secret behind this classic broth, and its traditional Portuguese recipe. Tradition states that this recipe is prepared with clams. But Bulhão Pato is also cooked with razor clams, mussels or shellfish. it just goes so well with a variety of seafood. After eating the seafood, get ready to dip your bread, because this is a broth that should be savored until the very last drop! 6. Prawns à la Aguillo A pompous name, a delicious and simple dish: sautéed prawns in a sea of sublime Portuguese olive oil, with salt and lots of fried garlic. For those who love a touch of spice, add chilli or piri-piri and the prawns just burst with a whole new flavor. Add a glass of cool white wine and a bread basket to enjoy the olive oil!
7. Grilled Tiger Prawn It’s not local – it comes from Mozambique – but it is divine: generous in size (it can size up to 30 cm long) and very appealing – with its typical black or dark blue stripes – the meaty and extremely flavorful tiger prawn is cooked for a few minutes on the grill with salt and lemon and is the official prince of any seafood fest. A toast to this wonder of the sea, which you’ll not only want to eat, but repeat as well! 8. Oysters Oysters are one of the most luxurious dining experiences when it comes to an amazing seafood spread. A new consumption for the Portuguese in this century, which we have always produced, but generally exported to France. There’s something mysterious about their hard, calcified shells, contrasting with its soft white sea-flavored interior… even when they’re served completely natural, as tradition will have it. Perhaps that is precisely the secret? 9. Lupini Is not seafood? No, it isn’t. But we go way back with lupini and have a great deal of affection and fondness for them: traditionally, lupini beans were called “the seafood of the poor” – that simple and perfect snack to pair with one cold beer or two, on a hot summer day, shared with a group of friends while catching up. Isn't that the spirit of a true Portuguese seafood feast? As soon as a plate of lupini is finished, another one appear: they’re like cherries, once you start eating them, you just can’t stop! And at any proper seafood feast, you can be sure that they’ll have a special place at the table, reserved for them alongside the other appetizers. 10. Prego Seafood? Check! Beer? Check! Verde wine? Check! Dessert? I’ll have a prego, please! What do you mean: the typical Portuguese beef sandwich for dessert? To make sure that we don’t go hungry, tradition tradition dictates that the Portuguese seafood feast dessert is the equivalent of a divine tenderloin sandwich, that’s tender, juicy, thin, ideally underdone, packed with garlic, nestled into delicious bread and served with mustard. Divine!
Is there any seafood on this list that you've never given a try? And which one is your favorite? Our Food & Cultural Walks are also infused with the aroma of the sea, the taste of seafood and the social atmosphere to match: ready to dive into these waters with us?