Perhaps the quintessentially Portuguese ingredient, there are said to be over a thousand cod recipes in Portugal – and judging by the amount of families who all say they have the best recipe in the world, it just might be true.
Curiously, for a nation that loves their fresh fish so much, cod is the only fish that is not consumed fresh, but rather dried and salted – a testimony to how old the tradition of eating cod is; it dates back more than 500 years to the Discoveries period. Salting and drying are ancient techniques used to preserve fish, and would allow for months-long journeys without losing its taste or properties, a huge advantage when seeking out the New World.
A staple in Portuguese culture since then, you can find Bacalhau dishes almost everywhere you look, and most of them will be quite good, thanks to centuries of perfecting recipes and techniques. It is also consumed in special occasions, traditionally being served in Christmas and Easter – in fact, Portugal is the biggest consumer of salted cod in the world, making up 25% of its consumption.
Among the most famous recipes, you’ll find the Bacalhau à Brás – famously named after Mr. Brás, a cook in Bairro Alto, consisting of shredded Bacalhau, fried potatoes, onion rings, scrambled eggs, olives and parsley. The Bacalhau Espiritual, with milk, eggs, wheat, carrot, butter, olive oil and cheese is also famous, as are the Pastéis de Bacalhau. A fresh green wine is the best drink to accompany most all Bacalhau dishes.
All in all, no matter who you talk to, it’s an unavoidable ingredient in Portuguese culture and one you must try when visiting – it’s a regular at Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon’s lunch buffet (always in some shape or form) and is spread out through some of the city’s best restaurants, like the Pastéis de Bacalhau at Solar dos Presuntos.