Odd and yet delicious!

One cannot help but feel surprised with the amazing diversity that exists in Portugal, a country with little more than 10 million inhabitants. The accent is the most obvious regional difference (BTW, which accent do you think is sexier: Brazilian or Portuguese?), but there are also many other small nuances that differ regionally: the crafts, traditional dances, music, personality and of course the cuisine. Portugal’s cuisine is a reflection of the country’s amazing cultural diversity, displaying a strong variety of ingredients, cooking methods, portion size, desserts, wine, among many other things.

But while Portugal is well known for displaying high quality cuisine, did you know that it’s also full of some of the world’s weirdest dishes? Yup, we do have some weird stuff! In his post we’ll share with you some of these dishes, how the cooking takes place, the place of origin, among other interesting details. We tried to get a sample out of each part of the meal so if you happen to be in Portugal, be sure to check some of the weirdest (yet delicious) dishes you can taste!

 

1 – Queijo de cabeça, some times referred to as Cabeça de Xara

  • Type of dish: Entrée/appetizer
  • Direct translation: Head cheese
  • Main ingredient: Pig’s head
  • Place of origin: Alentejo

Mostly used as an entrée or appetizer, this dish also exists in some other parts of Europe, especially in Germany (reffered to as Schwartenmagen). But is it really made off a pig’s head? In short… Yes! You take a pig’s head and salt it, leaving it for roughly 2 days absorbing the salt. You then cut out the meat, fat and cartilage and put all of it in a pan to boil together with other ingredients (onion, garlic, pepper, vinegar and a bit of wine). Once the meat is cooked you take it out, mix all of it together with the fat and the cartilage and put it in a tight broth in order for it to thicken. Let it cool and there you go… pig head cheese!

 

2 – Papas de sarrabulho

  • Type of dish: Main course
  • Direct translation: Sarrabulho porridge
  • Main ingredient: Blood (pig)
  • Place of origin: Minho (Northwest)

Papas de Sarrabulho is mostly found in Northern Portugal, especially in Minho some 30min north of Porto. Its origins are unclear, but it’s usually assumed that it began sometime during the black plague (XIV century). At the time food was scarce, so peasants would take bread and add to it some cooked blood in order to improve its nutritional value. But what the hell is “sarrabulho? It’s basically a blood stew mostly from pig’s blood and other ingredients namely: cumin, pepper, vinegar and some lemons. In order to get a Sarrabulho porridge you just need to add to “sarramulho” some bread, some corn flour and meat. Yummy!

3 – Arroz de cabidela

  • Type of dish: Main course
  • Direct translation: giblets rice
  • Main ingredient: rice, chicken blood (sometimes rabbit)
  • Place of origin: Minho (Northwest)

Again, while also present in other regions this dish is mostly found in Minho, northern Portugal. Yes, just like “sarrabulho” it also uses blood as the main ingredient, but this time it’s chicken blood, sometimes rabbit’s instead. For this one you’ll need to capture the blood while the animal is being slaughtered, and then mix it with some vinegar. You then pour it into a previously prepared rice stew made of chicken/rabbit meat (the original recipe included giblets), leave it for 5min and then it’s ready to eat!

 

4 – Sopa de cação

  • Type of dish: Main course
  • Direct translation: dogfish soup
  • Main ingredient: dogfish shark, bread
  • Place of origin: Alentejo.

Portugal boasts an extensive list of outstanding fish recipes but none is more unique than “sopa de cação”. There are many stories behind this dish: It’s sometimes mentioned that this recipe emerged from the fact that dogfish was never really a type of fish that brought much value to fishermen. Whenever it was caught up in fishing nets, it was soon dispatched to one of the poorest regions in Portugal: Alentejo, and sopa de cação was born. But is it really soup? Yes and no… It takes form from Alentejo’s very own traditional soup which is a broth made of garlic, olive oil, coriander and bread. You just add some dogfish for flavoring and there you have it, an outstanding dish made with shark!

 

5 – Sopas de cavalo cansado

  • Type of dish: breakfast
  • Direct translation: tired horse soups
  • Main ingredient: wine
  • Place of origin: mostly poor and rural areas.

A mix of bread, red wine and sugar, “Sopas de cavalo cansado” is for some a harsh reminder of how tough times were in the past. In most rural areas of Portugal you would give this mixture to farmers and children in order to start the day with energy. Given the high alcohol content, some say this is the first step towards alcoholism, but for others it’s the ideal way to start the day! Either way, one cannot argue the oddity of this meal.

 

6 – Pudim de Abade de Priscos

  • Type of dish: Dessert
  • Direct translation: Abbot of Priscos pudding
  • Main ingredient: bacon
  • Place of origin: Minho (northwest)

Portugal is also a country for desserts… We do love our sweets and the presence of many pastry shops (pastelarias), bread shops (padarias) and convent sweets recipes, are proof of that. “Pudim de abade de priscos” is a kind of crème caramel pudding that was created by Father Manuel Rebelo the abbot of Priscos in the 19th century. Its weirdness comes from the fact that besides traditional ingredients such as lemon, sugar, cinnamon, port wine and a large number of egg yolks, it also uses a fresh piece of bacon! Have you ever wondered if you could have bacon for dessert…? Well, now you know it, just travel to Northern Portugal and order one “Pudim de abade de Priscos”.

 

7 – Caracóis

  • Type of dish: Snack
  • Direct translation: Snails (cooked)
  • Main ingredient: snails
  • Place of origin: unknown

While France is quite famous for its “escargots”, per capita consumption of snails in Portugal is actually almost the double. Cooking methods are varied but the most usual way to find “caracóis” is boiled in a stew with pepper and oregano. Origins are unknown but one cannot deny the attractiveness of this typical Portuguese snack, especially during the Summer accompanied by a nice pint of beer.

We hope you enjoyed this article. Portugal is full of wonderful things and our cuisine is one of them, If you visit Portugal be sure to stay open minded and try some of our less attractive yet delicious dishes!

 

Rootfarers

Authentic experiences for authentic travelers.