Portuguese cuisine is very rich and diversified. I may be suspicious (because I am Portuguese), but I have never met a person that was disappointed with our specialities. Here you will find fish and meat dishes that you will not find elsewhere, different mouth-watering pastries, comfort food, healthy food and not-so healthy food. Plus, food tastes always better if you try it in the region that it comes from.
In the Algarve, you will find a fascinating mix of seafood and meat dishes and amazing deserts made with regional ingredients like almonds, figs, and carobs.
With so much variety of typical dishes it is hard to decide what to try. That is why I want to give you a little help and present you 6 local foods you must try when visiting the Algarve.
6 local foods you must try!
Xarém is a traditional dish in the Algarve and it is common in the city of Olhão.
It is a mash made with corn flour combined with traditional ingredients that may vary a little considering the city where it is made. This traditional dish has medieval origins and it a legacy left by the Moors in the Algarve. The traditional recipe of Olhão includes clams and bacon and it is common served with fried bread for a crunchy touch. You have to eat it while is hot, because when it cools off it starts to solidify. Xarém can be served as a starter or as a main dish.
. Cataplana de marisco (seafood cataplana)
If you love seafood, cataplana de marisco is a dish you must try! This is one of the most iconic dishes in the Algarve, and its name comes from the unique cooking pan in which it’s cooked.
Cataplana is most common made with a huge variety of fresh seafood, like lobster, clams, cockle and shrimp, but you can also try a cataplana with fish or meat. All the various components are gently fried with herbs, white wine and tomatoes and served with the sauce that is created as a result. They are all special thanks to the special pan that allows the ingredients to preserve their natural juices, aromas and flavours.
This is a dish to share with your family or love one as most restaurants do not serve individual portions.
. Grilled Sardines
Summer in Portugal means sardines! This is a seasonally fish that you only should try if you are visiting the region during summer, because out of this season you will probably get frozen sardines.
Grilled sardines are not typical only in the Algarve, but here you will find it fresh in all local markets. On almost every restaurant in the coastal cities you will find grilled sardines served with boiled potatoes and tomato salad. Locals like to eat the sardines on bread and using their own hands. If you eat them like the locals, in the end you will have the bread wet with all the flavours from the sardine.
. Muxama de atum
Muxama is probably the strangest item on this list. It is made of dry and salty tuna back pieces, of rigid consistency and smooth texture. It has variable dimensions, being the most commonly about 90×10 cm. This recipe dates from ancient times and was made by the Phoenicians and Romans.
Muxama results from an old way of processing the fish, using the tuna loins, which are passed through salt and then washed to remove the excess of salt. It is sometimes called “sea ham” and it is an appetizer. You will find it on local fish markets and some regional restaurants.
. Dom rodrigo
Dom Rodrigos are an Algarve´ specialty. They are made using “fios de ovos” (strings of egg yolks), cinnamon and almonds and they look like little nests. This delicacy is served wrapped in colourful foil. You can find them everywhere in the Algarve, but they are from Tavira (city on the Eatern side of the region).
. Doce fino (marzipan sweets)
Doces finos are small marzipan treats shaped and sculpted in different forms (fruits, vegetable, animals, etc). They are made with almond paste and its origin can be traced back to Moorish times. You will find them in in pastry shops, as well as in the supermarket and speciality food shops.
They are as pretty as they are tasty which make them a fantastic souvenir gift.
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