Since 2007, they started with a project about the 7 Wonders of Portugal. Now they have a list of the 7 Wonders of Portugal in a lot of topics. So, also for gastronomy. These are known as the “7 Wonders of Gastronomy”, or in Portuguese “As 7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia”. A list made available since 2011 about the 7 most famous dishes in Portugal. 7 Important dishes about the culture and history of Portugal.
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In the history of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, 2011 was the year assigned to the gastronomy. Food is an important part of the Portuguese culture. Because they have huge restaurant culture. And also food is part of a community, a way of living. The great food culture, with its diversity, great tastes and quality products, is one of the crucial reasons why a lot of tourists travel to Portugal. So, what is this list and which dishes are on this list?
To create a list of the 7 most famous dishes out of Portuguese gastronomy, they held a competition. They had 21 finalists to vote for. The dishes came out of all the categories in the gastronomy: starters, soups, fish, meat, seafood, wild and sweets. Around 900 000 people brought out a vote to get a list of these 7 wonders of gastronomy. This list is according the most votes and independent of the categories.
District Bragança – North Portugal
Alheiras are typical Portuguese sausages made from pork, poultry, veal, wild or rabbit mixed together with bread. Alheiras are grilled, roasted or fried and served with vegetables, fries and an egg.
This type of sausage was invented by the Jews who lived in Portugal. At the end of the 15th century, the Jews had the choice to become Christian or expelled from the country. Pork is a popular product in the Portuguese gastronomy, but Jews don’t eat pork. Normal sausages in Portugal always were made of pork. So, for the Portuguese Christians ad the Portuguese Inquisition this was an ideal tool to decide if someone was a Christian or a Jew. When someone doesn’t wanted eat of the Portuguese sausage, they decided that he was a Jew. But the Jews were inventive to mislead the crowd. They made their own sausages of poultry or wild and mixed with bread to have a same texture. This was the origin of the Alheiras.
Starter – Petisco
Serra da Estrela
Districts Guarda and Castelo Branco – Central Portugal
Portugal has great cheese. Maybe the most famous cheese from Portugal is the Queijo Serra da Estrela. This cheese is made of sheep’s milk and is a protected product. Cheese out of the Serra da Estrela is known as a spoon cheese. They eat it as a petisco or as a starter by the lunch or the diner. I like it very much, with a little bit bread and “Doce de Tomate”. Delicious!
The Serra da Estrela is one of the most important natural parks in continental Portugal. It is located in the north-eastern part of central Portugal. Serra de Estrela stretches over 2 districts: Guarda and Castelo Branco. You even can discover snow in the Serra da Estrela. Yes, snow in Portugal.
Districts Braga and Viana do Castelo – North Portugal
Caldo Verde is a green cabbage soup with a lot of vegetables. You can enrich it with chouriço and a little bit olive oil. This is a great soup and a traditional famous dish in the whole Portuguese community.
Caldo Verde comes out of the old Minho province in the north of Portugal. This province had the capital Braga. Now it is the location of the districts Braga and Viana do Castelo. Minho was in the region of the cradle of Portugal.
Vieira de Leiria
District Leiria – Central Portugal
Maybe you can see Arroz de Marisco as one of the top dishes to honor the fishermen. Arroz de Marisco is a stew of prawns, clams, mussels, crab and lobster. The rice, arroz, also is added in the stew. This dish also is very popular everywhere in Portugal. So, the used seafood can vary depending on the region you eat it.
Vieira de Leiria is a traditional fishing place in central Portugal. The location is part of Marinha Grande in the Leiria district. It is located aside of the city Leiria itself. Still today, a lot of fisher boats go out very early in the morning to come back with fresh fish for the many local restaurants. So, fish is very important in this region. You have to be here to taste the great “Arroz de Marisco” or a “Caldeirada de Peixe”.
Setúbal – Sesimbra
District Setúbal – Lisbon Metropolitan Area
When you say Portugal, you say sardines, sardinhas. Everywhere in the country you can enjoy grilled sardines, “Sardinhas Assadas”, “Sardinhas Grelhadas” or “sardinhas na grelha”. Sardines are the top product to taste the typical Portuguese food: basic food, a little bit spices but not too much and respect for the product. Mostly they are served together with some basic vegetables and patatos or bread. Personaly, for me this is the top dish to taste and feel Portugal in my food. Sardinhas Assadas are part of the Portuguese entity. So, almost every festival in the country is ideal for grilled sardines. During the Festas dos Santos Populares, the June Festivals, it is the most important dish.
By the original region, I wrote that Setúbal and Sesimbra should be the home of the Sardinhas Assadas in Portugal. This is not sure, but already from the 16th century, it is said that you can find the most and best sardines in the region of Setúbal, at the south of Lisbon. Also at the International Exhibition of Paris in 1855, the sardines of Setúbal an honorable mention. These sardines also were the first fish out of the European Union and from the Iberian Peninsula to obtain the blue quality label MSC. The MSC label is a certificate for sustainability and good management of fishing resources.
Districts Aveiro and Coimbra – Central Portugal
Portugal has a huge coastline. So indeed, fish a crucial part of the Portuguese food. But do you know that Portuguese eat a lot of pork? They eat a lot of black pig, porco preto, as well as roasted suckling pig. In Portuguese this is called Leitão. Leitão is one of the best Portuguese dishes for meat lovers and part of the Portuguese traditions and culture.
The Iberian Peninsula is known for his black pigs. With the products “Porco Preto” in Portugal and “Pata Negra” in Spain. In the 17th century, the pig farms in the region of Bairrada had too much pigs for their own needs. This fact was the start of the commercialisation of this industry. Bairrada is a natural subregion in central Portugal, between Aveiro and Coimbra. The largest part is located in the district Aveiro. Still today, this region is marked as the best location to taste roosted suckling pig, Leitão.
Sweet – Petisco
District Lisbon – Lisbon Metropolitan Area
Last but not least, Pastéis de Belém. They can’t miss on the list of the 7 most famous dishes of Portugal. Sweet custard tards, famous in whole Portugal and over the world. Pastéis de Belém is a protected product, only these of the pastelaria Pastéis de Belém may be called Pastéis de Belém, or for one pastry Pastel de Belém. If you want to taste some elsewhere in Portugal, even in Belém, they are called Pastéis de nata. Read more about these sweet custard tards in our post about Pastéis de nata.
The origin of the famous Portuguese delicious pastery, the Pastéis de Belém, lies in the impressive Jerónimos Monastery in Belém. Because in the monastery, they needed revenue. So, they started to make a product with basic products and sold it. When the monastery closed in the 19th century, the recipe of the Pastéis de Belém was sold to a backery who opened Patéis de Belém near the monastery. Still today, the unique recipe of the Pastéis de Belém is a big secret. Read more about the most famous Portuguese pastries in this post.
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