mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

A Taste of Portugal

A lot of people always ask me, “What do Portuguese people eat?” I usually just say, “We eat A LOT!” But for those unsatisfied with that answer, here are some of the things I ate during a recent visit to my Portuguese family in New Jersey.

Papo Seco com manteiga- The Portuguese Roll (papo seco) is bread in its supreme form. My ideal Portuguese breakfast is a toasted and buttered (manteiga) Portuguese Roll with a glass of soy milk. Delicious!

Caldo Verde - A quintessential Portuguese dish consisting of potatoes, collard greens, and usually sausage (chouriço). This soup is normally served at parties and celebrations, but, growing up, my family served it at Sunday dinners. The soup pairs really well with broa (Portuguese cornbread), but I always ate mine with a Portuguese Roll.

Febras com Cebolada - A simple but wonderful dish. Pan-fried boneless pork cutlets served with sautéed onions and peppers. Once again, the almighty Portuguese Roll is an excellent vessel for serving this dish.

Arroz de Cabidela - My favorite way to cook rice: in the BLOOD OF CHICKENS! I’m not sure if this is simply a myth but they say this dish was inherited from the Sephardi Jews. Rather than twisting the neck of the chicken to kill it, the Sephardi Jews would slit the chicken’s throat and then hang it to drain the blood. Enterprising Portuguese realized you should not waste the blood and cooked the rice in it with a bit of vinegar. Morbid, but tasty!

Açorda de Camarão - My family is from the northwestern-most Alto Minho region of Portugal. But this dish is from the south-central Alentejo region. This dish may look like a huge mushy disaster, but it’s actually very tasty. The main ingredients are mashed bread and shrimp. Codfish/bacalhau is another common fish used in this dish.

Bacalhau à Brás - It’s made with shredded pieces of codfish (bacalhau), onions, scrambled eggs, and french fries. I’m not usually a huge fan of codfish, but when this dish comes out, I am suddenly a huge fan.

Carne de Vaca Estufada - Another one of my favorite dishes is steamed (estufada) cow (vaca) meat (carne). This is commonly served with mashed potatoes and green peas. My mom also makes rice because my sister and dad don’t believe in mashed potatoes. I’m not sure what goes into making the marinade the meat rests in, but it goes so well as a gravy on the mashed potatoes!

Pastel de Nata - Custard cups are the perfect end to every meal. My Asian friends say these look a lot like Chinese Egg Tarts. Except (incoming UNBIASED Portuguese opinion) these are WAY BETTER!

And that’s that. Suddenly overcome with saudades of Portuguese food, I need to go book a ticket to visit home again!