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The most typical dishes from Lisbon (and where to eat them)

From petiscos and finger foods, to typical salted cod dishes and hearty meat or seafood stews, not forgetting the indulgent repertoire of sugar and egg yolk loaded Portuguese desserts, the collection of traditional Portuguese food is rather vast for such a small country!


Portuguese cuisine is regional with distinct characteristics depending on the area of Portugal. The local history, the topography and influences of the people who have come and gone all over the country during centuries, have shaped the Portuguese way of cooking and eating.


Today we focus on Lisbon’s culinary heritage, highlighting the dishes which have been developed in the Portuguese capital. Even though you may find any of these all over Portugal today, just like you can eat all sorts of regional recipes in the restaurants across the city as well, these are the most iconic dishes created in Lisbon itself.




Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato


Being so close to the ocean, the cuisine of Lisbon has decidedly been influenced by the Atlantic. As such, fish and seafood are staples of the local diet. The clam dish amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is considered one of Portugal’s best seafood dishes and one we often cook during our group classes at Cooking Lisbon. Many won’t know that, unlike other recipes which end up taking the name of its creator, these saucy clams were named as a tribute to poet and renowned foodie Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato (1828-1912). But let’s be honest: amêijoas à Bulhão Pato have much more potential to make Portuguese folks hungry than awaken our literary sides! The recipe was developed around 1930 at Estrela de Oiro restaurant, which used to have its doors open in Rua da Prata in Lisbon. Even though some restaurants today also add white wine to the preparation of clams Bulhão Pato style, the original recipe is indeed very simple: the clams are cooked with a little garlic infused olive oil, lemon and lots of coriander, which is used during the cooking process itself, as well as a generous garnish for serving. Simple yet very elegant, this tangy Portuguese clams recipe is a must-try when you visit Lisbon!



Where to try ​​in clams Bulhão Pato style Lisbon:


Cervejaria Ramiro

📍Av. Alm. Reis 1 H, 1150-007 Lisbon


Cervejaria Pinóquio

📍Praça dos Restauradores 79 80, 1250-188 Lisbon


O Palácio

📍Rua Prior do Crato 142, 1350-263 Lisbon





Peixinhos da horta


We have an entire article dedicated to the history of peixinhos da horta, and how these battered and deep-fried green beans are the Portuguese predecessor of Japanese tempura. Peixinhos da horta, just like many Portuguese finger foods, originated in Lisbon. This has to do with the fact that the first public establishments for food and drinks opened their doors right at the capital. At the beginning, particularly during the 19th century, taverns and drinks dispensaries started propagating all over the city. Even though these were drinks only shops, initially to buy to take home and later on to drink at the shop itself, business owners soon saw an opportunity to up-sell and started selling food. The food sold at taverns was basically one pot stews with whatever was available on the day, as well as appetizers which would help soak up the alcohol, inspiring customers to order one more round. One of these finger foods was peixinhos da horta, which consists of runner beans coated with a simple batter of wheat flour and eggs, deep-fried to golden perfection. A good serving of peixinhos da horta will feature a fairly light and crispy batter, not too oily or heavy, with an inside of beans cooked through yet still with a slightly al dente crunch to them.



Where to try ​​peixinhos da horta in Lisbon:


Tascardoso

📍Rua de O Século 242, 1250-095 Lisbon


Pap’Açorda

📍Inside Time Out Market Lisboa, ​​Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisbon


Coelho da Rocha

📍Rua Coelho da Rocha 104, 1350-075 Lisbon






Pataniscas


Not to be mistaken with pastéis de bacalhau, pataniscas are flat codfish fritters typical from Lisbon. Pastéis de bacalhau are egg-shaped salt cod fritters prepared with mashed potato and shredded cod, typical form the northern Minho region where they are usually known as bolinhos de bacalhau. Pataniscas, the southern cousin of this fritter, were originally developed in Lisbon and while they also feature shredded cod, their batter is thickened with wheat instead of potatoes. The first written recipe for pataniscas dates back to the 19th century as part of the book A Arte do Cozinheiro e do Copeiro (“the art of the cook and pantry keeper”) by the viscount of Vilarinho de São Romão. Since then, traditional pataniscas (also known as pataniscas de bacalhau) are made with shredded salt cod, onions, eggs and flour, seasoned with salt, flour and lots of chopped parsley. These flat fritters are cooked until golden, with a slightly crispy exterior and soft and moist insides. Pataniscas can be eaten by themselves as a snack, or as a main meal traditionally served with soupy rice preparations such as arroz de feijão, that is, red kidney beans rice. If you’re going to eat pataniscas in a truly old-school way not many do these days, ask for a sandes de patanisca, that is a patanisca sandwich, with the fritter tucked inside a bun, which is a rare treat still available in taverns like A Merendinha do Arco in downtown Lisbon.


Where to try ​​pataniscas in Lisbon:


A Casa do Bacalhau

📍Rua do Grilo 54, 1900-706 Lisbon


Food Corner Marlene Vieira

📍Inside Time Out Market Lisboa, Av. 24 de Julho, 1200-479 Lisbon


Adega da Tia Matilde

📍Rua da Beneficência 77, 1600-017 Lisbon





Meia desfeita


This Lisbon dish is linked with the bohemian lifestyle of taverns and eateries of the previous century. Also called ​​meia desfeita de bacalhau, this recipe was born in the neighborhood of Mouraria and it is still enjoyed all over the country. Meia desfeita can either be served warm or at room temperature, and it includes shredded cod, chopped onions, hard boiled eggs, chickpeas, and parsley. Sometimes, olives will also be a part of the dish, if nothing else as garnish. Meia desfeita with cod is drenched in olive oil, seasoned with white wine vinegar or lemon juice for tang and, depending on the cook, may also include a subtle touch of ground piri-piri. The name of this dish translates as “half undone” or “half mess” and it refers to the half portions of this mixture which were often ordered with drinks back in the day.



Where to try meia desfeita ​​in Lisbon:


A Tigelinha

📍​​Calçada Santana 62, 1150-306 Lisbon


​​Listriglo

📍​​​​Av. Afonso III 69A, 1900-041 Lisbon


O Moisés

📍​​Av. Duque de Ávila 121, 1050-083 Lisbon






Ovos verdes


There aren’t many typical Portuguese foods suitable for vegetarians, but peixinhos da horta above and ovos verdes are some of them. “Green eggs” consist of deep-fried hard boiled eggs… but there’s more to it! After boiling the eggs, they are cut into halves and the yolk is removed and mashed along with finely chopped parsley, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper. Each half of the egg is coated with breadcrumbs and fried until crispy. This is a way of enhancing an otherwise plain boiled egg, which you will still see these days served atop coarse salt in some of the most straight-up of Lisbon’s taverns, like for example A Tendinha do Rossio. The Portuguese answer to delivered eggs was born in Lisbon and it can be served as a snack on its own, or as a main dish with sides like rice and salad.



Where to try ​​ovos verdes in Lisbon:


Frutalmeidas

📍Av. de Roma 45, 1700-342 Lisbon


Cozinha da Felicidade

📍Inside Time Out Market Lisboa, Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisbon


Restaurante Zanzibar

📍​​Praça da Armada 36, 1350-027 Lisbon






Bacalhau à Brás


Of course there had to be more than a couple of salted cod recipes as part of Lisbon’s most iconic dishes. After all, bacalhau is Portugal’s favorite ingredient! Bacalhau à Brás is not only one of Lisbon’s quintessential cod dishes, it is also one of the nation’s favorite ways of preparing this cured fish. The original recipe of bacalhau à Brás was developed by a tavern cook in the bustling neighborhood of Bairro Alto, in Lisbon, who was called Brás (sometimes also spelled as Braz). Brás came up with this sort of scramble that brings together shredded cod, thinly sliced onions, eggs, black olives and chopped parsley. A good serving of Brás style cod will feature slightly runny eggs, which are cooked but should remain rich in order to bring the dish alive. Tricks to make a really velvety bacalhau à Brás include cooking it with part whole eggs, part yolks, for added creaminess. Apart from the traditional places for bacalhau à Brás we recommend below, keep in mind that there are restaurants which also offer contemporary interpretations of this dish, including the Calçada de Bacalhau by Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa which you can taste at double Michelin starred ALMA [quando for publicado, podemos substituir este link por um link para o artigo sobre os restaurantes de Lisboa com estrela Michelin, no blog da CL], featuring the richest cod scramble with a covering layer of cod carpaccio meant to emulate the Portuguese cobblestone paths. Salted cod Brás style is also one of the traditional recipes we can cook with you during our Portuguese cooking class in Lisbon.



Where to try ​​bacalhau à Brás in Lisbon:


Laurentina, O Rei do Bacalhau

📍Av. Conde Valbom 71A, 1050-067 Lisbon


Clube do Bacalhau

📍Tv. Cotovelo 12, 1200-182 Lisbon


D’Bacalhau

📍Zona Ribeirinha Norte, R. do Bojador 45, 1900-254 Lisbon






Grilled sardines


We can’t with absolute certainty claim that grilled sardines are a dish which was originally prepared in Lisbon. As it consists of simple grilled fish cooked over charcoal, sardinhas assadas could have truly originated anywhere, but there’s no doubt that they are one of the edible symbols of Portugal’s capital city and, as such, it would be unthinkable not to feature them in this list of the most typical dishes from Lisbon. Having been voted one of the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy, sardinhas assadas are a seasonal food consumed during late spring and summer months, when this fish is available (during the rest of the year it is usually eaten canned). In Lisbon, grilled sardines are one of the typical foods prepared to celebrate Saint Anthony’s festival, in June. During the summer, it’s common for Lisbon to have a characteristic smoky and fishy smell (in a good way!) as there are lots of outdoor grills meant to prepare sardines and a few other meaty BBQ items in many of our traditional neighborhoods. Coming to Lisbon in the summer and not eating grilled sardines, it's like going to Italy and not trying pasta or pizza!



Where to try ​​grilled sardines in Lisbon, when in season:


Último Porto

📍Rua Gen. Gomes Araújo 1, 1350-352 Lisbon


Tasca do Jaime

📍Rua da Graça 91, 1170-171 Lisbon


And at street stalls all over the city during St. Anthony’s festivities in June

📍Particularly in the neighborhoods of Alfama, Mouraria, Bica and Madragoa





Iscas com elas


Also known as iscas à Portuguesa, this is a dish of beef liver strips that has become synonymous with Lisbon. Iscas com elas translates as “iscas with them”, them being the boiled potatoes which the liver cuts are usually served with. We don’t know for sure how iscas came to be, but it’s well documented that this was one of Lisbon’s most typical foods during the 20th century. Today, you can still find iscas served as a petisco (aka Portuguese tapa or appetizer) or as a dish of the day at many of Lisbon’s best tascas. The natural flavor of the liver is enhanced with a marinade prepared with white wine, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper which is left to soak overnight. Traditionally, the meat is cooked in a pan with pork lard, even though many places today will do it with vegetable oil or even olive oil, adding the marinade once the iscas are fried, and allowing it to reduce. This is exactly the sauce which will not only make the iscas flavorful, but also take the otherwise not so interesting potatoes to the next level. Even though it’s understood that iscas com elas was already being prepared in a similar manner in the 1800s, the first ever recorded recipe for this dish dates back to ​​1904, as part of the cookbook Tratado Completo de Cozinha e Copa (“the complete kitchen and pantry treaty), by Carlos Bento de Maia.


Just like iscas, there are other typical Lisbon dishes which were once upon a time developed in the taverns across the city. Meant to help balance out the alcohol consumed, as well as making very good use of every single part of the animals slaughtered for food, other meaty petiscos include moelas (chicken gizzards stewed until soft in a tomato rich sauce) and pipis (chicken giblets cooked with tomatoes, onions and garlic).



Where to try ​​iscas in Lisbon:


O Maravilhas

📍Rua Gilberto Rola 20, 1350-155 Lisbon


A Castiça

📍Rua Castiça 2, 1750-056 Lisboa


Restaurante das Flores

📍​​Rua das Flores 76 78, 1200-195 Lisbon

(no website or social media presence, but Restaurante das Flores is not to be mistaken with Taberna da Rua das Flores)





Bife à café


Antonio Marrare was an Italian man from Naples who migrated to Lisbon at the end of the 18th century. He started an eatery in downtown Lisbon, Marrare das Sete Portas, which used to be located in the street corner between ​​Rua de Santa Justa and Rua dos Sapateiros. This is where the steak locally known as bife à marrare was popularized. It consisted of a round steak, simply seasoned with salt, and cooked in butter. The characteristic sauce that would make a bife à marrare was a gravy prepared with meat stock and cream. Even though bife à marrare was for a long time considered one of Lisbon’s most typical meat dishes, it’s very difficult to encounter this recipe in restaurants today. Instead, you are much more likely to come across bife à café, which translates as café style steak, and which is an adaptation of the original recipe by Marrare. Instead of cream, bife à café features a steak drenched in a thick sauce prepared with milk, mustard and lemon, which ends up being a tad less cloying on the palate than bife à marrare. Bife à marrare and bife à café are customarily served with French fries. So indulgent and comforting!



Where to try ​bife à café in Lisbon:


Café de São Bento

📍Rua de São Bento 212, 1200-821 Lisbon


Café do Paço

📍​​​​Paço da Rainha 62, 1150-000 Lisbon


Café Imperio

📍Av. Alm. Reis 205 A, 1000-048 Lisbon





Mão de vaca com grão


This typical Lisbon recipe is also known by the name meia-unha com grão, which not very appetizingly translates as “half nail with chickpeas”. The name has to do with the fact that, customarily, each portion of this dish is served with half a cow’s claw. The inception of mão de vaca com grão, which also goes by the name ​​mão de vaca guisada com grão, is associated with the old taverns of Lisbon, and with one-pot wonders prepared at large scale with affordable and common ingredients. The less noble parts of the cow come together with chickpeas cooked with a rich sauce, which would comfort any belly, full of liquor or otherwise. Now-a-days you won’t see many restaurants serving meia-unha as part of their permanent menu, but it’s still one of those wintery dishes which make an appearance as a daily special (in Portuguese prato do dia) in Lisbon eateries specializing in traditional Portuguese food.



Where to try ​​mão de vaca com grão in Lisbon:


Floresta das Escadinhas

📍Rua de Santa Justa 3, 1100-483 Lisbon


Solar dos Presuntos

📍Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 150, 1150-269 Lisbon


Restaurante Helsinquia

📍Av. Madame Curie 3, 1070-066 Lisbon






Pastéis de Belém or pastéis de nata


If there is one speciality that most international foodies would easily associate with Lisbon, that is Portuguese custard tarts. Known in Portugal as pastéis de nata, these delicate confections consist of flaky puff pastry wrapped around smooth custard which, depending on the bakery, may have a hint of cinnamon and/or lemon. Antiga Confeitaria de Belém is allegedly the original bakery where these pastries were first sold. There are several theories that point to the origin of Portuguese custard tarts dating way before the existence of this bakery in 1837. But the truth is that, even if pastel de nata existed in one form or another, that was definitely without the use of puff pastry, as this laminated dough only became widespread in Portugal after the 19th century thanks to French influence. Until then, similar pastries to these already existed, sometimes being referred to as queijada de nata, and often associated with convents such as those in the region of the Alentejo. No matter what the journey of pastel de nata was until it became the delectable pastry we know of today, one thing is for sure: it was Antiga Confeitaria de Belém who trademarked the pastries under the name “pastéis de Belém”. As such, even though you will find pastéis de nata in Lisbon and all over Portugal, it’s only here that you will find them as pastéis de Belém. They are very much worth trying, but don’t limit your Portuguese custard explorations to Belém, as there are other incredible bakeries which have these warm pastries out of the oven all day long. Beside purchasing them ready-made, we can teach you how to make your own pastéis de nata here at Cooking Lisbon. So, whenever you miss the sweeter side of Lisbon, you can satisfy the craving at home!



Where to try ​​Pastéis de Belém:


At the one and only Antiga Confeitaria de Belém

📍Rua de Belém 84 92, 1300-085 Lisbon


Where to try ​​pastéis de nata in Lisbon:


Manteigaria

📍Severals shops around Lisbon:


Aloma

📍Several shops all over Lisbon:




We hope that after reading this article not only you feel peckish, but also better equipped to explore Lisbon’s most traditional foods. Is there any dish you’re most looking forward to trying when you visit Lisbon? Please let us know on Instagram, and tag your Portuguese food photos @cookinglisbon#cookinglisbon

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COOKING LISBON

Cooking Lisbon

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​1150-068 Lisboa, Portugal

(+351) 916 047 883

info@cookinglisbon.com

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