Portugal is a highly regional country for food. The offerings in Lisbon differ enormously from those in the Algarve coast to the Algarve mountains and central Portugal. And Porto in the North of Portugal has a gastronomy scene of its own.
Not only have they created their own dishes but Porto is also a gateway and a place to sample some of Northern Portugal's cuisine made in small towns if you don't have the time to visit them all. Here is a list of 10 of the tastiest must eat foods to try when you are in Porto!
1. Francesinha Sandwich
I had to start my list with the Francesinha sandwich. Because this is really what everyone tries when they come to Porto but it is also an item that locals eat. It is like a sandwich dream come to life. Thickish white bread is filled with ham, Linguica sausage, steak and then it is covered in cheese and then a heavenly beer and tomato sauce and an egg if you like. Fries are often served on the side. Obviously it's not diet food ;)
Truth be told my first bite was not that impressive. But then I got another bite with all of the meats and by my third bite I was eagerly polishing it off and then nodding in agreement when they asked me if I'd like a boat of extra gravy. And even though when we visited in spring, the weather was warm, we saw so many locals tucking into them for lunch.
Where to eat it: it is available all over Porto but head to Rua de Passos Manuel where there are plenty of Francesinha places to choose from including Lado B and Cafe Santiago. Tip: avoid Saturday nights for Francesinha unless you want to queue.
Alheira is a smoked sausage that has a thick skin. Originally it was said to have been created by Portuguese Jews of Trás-os-Montes during the Inquisition as they couldn't eat pork sausages. They created the Alheira that resembled a pork sausage so that their religion could be concealed.
How to eat an Alheira? You can eat the skin but it is difficult to cut so you just eat the insides that are smokey, fatty and delicious. Alheira sausage is often deep fried and served with fries, salad, rice and an egg on top and it is a really delicious and filling lunch.
Where to eat it: Lado B - have it with a Francesinha above. Tip: it only appears on the Portuguese menu. Address: R. de Passos Manuel 190, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal. Monday to Friday 11am–11:30pm, Saturday 11am–12am, Sunday closed. Phone: +351 22 201 4269
3. Tigelinha do Bolhão
Lisbon has the pasteis de nata (it is available all over Portugal really) but if you're looking for a Porto cake or tart the tigelinha do Bolhão is a beauty. At Confeteria do Bolhão you can try several of Porto's specialty cakes and tarts although this is their most popular. It's the size of a pastel de nata, made with the same puff pastry base but it is filled with an rich egg yolk custard with a caramelised almond topping.
Where to buy: Confeteria do Bolhão. Address: R. Formosa 339, 4000-252 Porto, Portugal. Monday to Friday 6am–8pm, Saturday 7am–7pm. Sunday closed. Phone: +351 22 339 5220
Many of Portugal's sweets originally come from convents and fall into the category "Doces Conventuais" or convent sweets. Many of them involve egg yolks, sugar and pastry - the egg whites were said to be used to starch the nun's and priest's clothing. The Jesuíta is a triangular puff pastry with a egg white icing sugar topping that dries crisp like a meringue and a egg cream filling. I found these honestly a touch on the dry side and much preferred the Tigelinha de Bolhao although I definitely recommend trying at least one Jesuíta.
Where to buy: also at Confeteria do Bolhão, see above
5. Broa de Avintes
Across the Douro River is the Vila Nova de Gaia, the new area of Porto. It's not usually where tourists go to visit except to get photos from the other side of the river. Vila Nova de Gaia is also home to Broa de Avintes, a traditional rye, corn and malt bread shaped like a bell. It is a sweet and dense rye bread and you can buy a whole loaf or part of a loaf. The bread can be served as is or is sometimes fried and traditionally it is made using rituals of prayers and blessings.
Where to buy: Mercearia do Bolhao Rua Formosa, 305 4000-252, Porto (a few doors down from Confeteria do Bolhão).
6. Bolinhas Bacalau
It's incredible how many ways the Portuguese have thought to use codfish or bacalau. Just enter a supermarket and you'll see the various ways they prepare it. And one of the most popular ways is as fritters or Bolinhas Bacalau.
Some say that Porto has the best Bolinhas Bacalau and like the pastel de nata vs pastel de Belem debate, the fun is really in the research. At their best, they are light, not oily and full of creamy, flavoursome fish.
Where to eat: we had an amazing meal at Escondidinho do Barredo Address: Rua dos Canastreiros no.28-30, 4050-149 Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm down a little hidden away alleyway. They have a menu in both Portuguese and English although it is likely to be full of locals.
Port poached pears
Port is of course from Porto and wine lists at restaurants all feature port. There are even cocktails that use it like the Porto sour using port in place of Pisco or Whisky. On dessert menus pears are also poached in port. You can also do day trips to visit the Douro Valley and visit one of the region's wineries.
8. Tripas à Moda or Portuguese tripe do Porto
Tripe has a long history with the city of Porto - almost 600 years worth in fact. The locals in Porto are actually nicknamed tripeiros (aka tripe eaters) due to the fact that in the 1500s the locals of Porto ate tripe while sending the best cuts to the soldiers of the Infante D. Henrique (son of King João I) who conquered Ceuta on the North Coast of Africa.
Tripas à Moda is a tasty, warming dish of tripe, white beans, pig's ear, pig's head meat, salpicao sausage, ham, calves head, carrots, onions and spices. This creates a dish that is as rich and tasty on the palate as it is with history.
Where to eat it: Tripeiro's. Address: R. de Passos Manuel 195, 4000-385 Porto, Portugal. Monday to Friday 12:30–3pm, 7–11pm, Saturday 12:30–4pm, 7pm–12am, Sunday 12:30–4pm. Phone: +351 22 203 8075.
9. Touchinho do Ceu
Porto is where you can try a lot of food from the Northern part of Portugal. This cake from Guimarães literally means bacon from heaven and the reason being is that pork fat or lard is one of the ingredients in this wonderful almond cake. It features eggs, sugar, skinned almonds and pork fat and although you don't taste the pork fat at all, it's still utterly moreish.
Where to eat it: Tripeiro's (see above)
10. Pasteis de Chaves
These half moon filo pastries are DOP protected-that means that unless they are made in Chaves (at the very North of Portugal), you cannot claim to make Pasteis de Chaves. At A Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves they bring these in from Chaves every day. They date back from 1862 and are made up of ultra thin filo pastry layers that puff up.
The traditional filling is veal and onion but nowadays they have a lot of flavours from chocolate, bacalhau and chicken. These are best served warm as most pastry tends to be and they are a wonderful snack or a lunch with soup.
Where to eat: A Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves. Address: R. da Firmeza 476, 4000-453 Porto, Portugal. Open 7 days 9am–7:30pm. Phone: +351 22 208 7091
So tell me Dear Reader, which foods have you tried from this list? Is there one that appeals to you the most? Do you try and eat as much local food as possible?
These meals and travel were independently paid for.