To discover a new food culture could be oh-so-fascinating but also a bit tricky. When we moved to Portugal kids were (at first) struggling with new sensations. Even boiled potatoes tasted differently. Now that we are starting our second school year in Lisbon, we have learned to love the local cuisine – its fresh ingredients and traditional approach to cooking. But we still prefer simple tastes to very complex combinations…
Here are some tips if you are visiting Portugal with kids.
Soups are a simple introduction to local cuisine (and a nice way to eat vegetables). We love-love-love the traditional chicken soup – I think it’s something universal, everyone loves chicken soup! But also the ones with vegetables are very nice and tasty, especially caldo verde that’s made of kale, potatoes and chorizo. Nom-nom!
Vegetable soup and chicken soup with corn bread
Caldo verde soup and pulled pork sandwich
2 Fish and rice
Life by the ocean dictates that there is a lot of fish and seafood on the plate. Try dourada (sea bream) or robalo (sea bass). Sardines and bacalhau (cod fish) are typical Portuguese delicacies, there are hundreds of different ways of cooking the dried salted cod fish… but never the less grilled dourada is usually a safer choice when it comes to kids. It is super tasty and almost boneless! And we adore tomato rice. Whenever you see something with rice on the menu, try it! Portuguese cuisine is famous for its rice dishes and the Portuguese are the biggest consumers of rice in Europe. Rice with polvo (octopus) is our favorite!
Dourada with tomato rice and spinaches
We always prefer to have a proper cake to all kinds of other desserts (mousses, flans and sweet rice are very nice, but they can never replace a proper cake!). Almond cake is something very typical here and goes well with five o’clock tea. It is crunchy and ideally a bit moist inside. Or! Whenever you see a bolo de bolacha (Portuguese biscuit cake with a touch of coffee!) on menu, give it a try, even kids enjoy its sweet-bitter taste. True delight! And there usually are loads of sponge cakes (pão de ló) to choose from, which is another great option if you love cakes.
Portuguese almond cake
4 Tomato jam
Tomato jam – you will not find it in most restaurants, but it is something to bring home as a souvenir (buy it at a local market place or in a supermarket). It really is worth the effort! Sounds strange – tomato jam – (btw it doesn’t taste like ketchup, it’s a real jam, if you wonder…!) but is just perfect with fresh pancakes (or fresh cheese).
Home made tomato jam
5 Pasteis de nata
And finally, the crown jewel of the Portuguese desserts – pastel de nata or custard tart. You can find a nice one in every little coffee house and in every corner shop. But the real ones are in Belem (fancy neighbourhood in Lisbon where the president lives). Pasteis de Belem are the finest version of these famous custard tarts. They come with a touch of cinnamon and powdered sugar. Must-must-must try when visiting Lisbon! And it’s a nice gift idea to take with you later.
Classical pasteis de nata or Portuguese custard tarts