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Culture, Customs and Tradition of Portuguese Food

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Culture, Customs and Tradition

The Portuguese were the top fishermen and explorers of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. They brought rare spices home for their people to enjoy. They were among the first to experiment with cinnamon, pepper, cloves and nutmeg, modifying their native dishes to take advantage of these new flavors.

At the heart of Portuguese cuisine is the use of quality ingredients prepared to preserve their distinctive flavors. Rich Mediterranean and Moorish influences and the wide variety of available ingredients have given the Portuguese cook the best flavors and textures to work with.

Portuguese food is known for being robust. Because the cuisine is easy to prepare, using very basic equipment, it is often described as peasant food. Some of the most popular Portuguese dishes can be made in a single pot over an open fire. The use of seasoned pork, strong olive oil, garlic and onions contributes to the strong flavored, simple cooking.

Popular Portuguese dishes in India

Fish: Many of Portugal’s dishes are fish-based due to the country’s situation. The most famous fish dish is salted Cod, Bacalhau. Other popular fish includes ardines, especially grilled, squid (often stuffed), shellfish such as mussels, prawns, oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams. Some of the popular dishes include Rissioís De Camarão (Prawns Rissois) and Peixe ComAzeite (Fish with Olive Oil, Onions and Tomatoes).

Meat: One of the most popular meats in Portugal is pork, which can be cooked in a variety of ways. Roast suckling pig is a speciality of Central Portugal. Another popular pork dish is the Carne De PorcoAssada (Braised Pork), which consists of pork marinated in wine, Sorpotel (Pork & Liver Curry), Chouriços Com Pão (Sausage in Bread), Vindalho De Carne De Porco (Pork Vindalho) and Guisado De Galinha (Chicken Stew).

Soups: Soup is served at most meals. Seasonal vegetables, fish and meat are used to make a variety of soups. One of the most famous Portuguese soups from Minho is the CaldoVerde, which consists of a mashed Potato base, green Galician Cabbage, Olive Oil and black Pudding (tora)or slices of Sausage, such as Chouriço and Salpicão. Other famous Soup is Canja De Galinha (Chicken and Rice Soup).

Desserts: Many of the desserts in Portugal are rich egg-based specialties, often seasoned with spices such as cinnamon and vanilla. A popular dessert is the ArrozDoce, a rice pudding flavoured with cinnamon and lemon. The Portuguese have a variety of cake and confectionary specialities that can be found in a pasteleria or confeitaria. Northern specialties are rich, very sugary and often flavored with cinnamon, whereas in the south the sweetmeats reflect the local harvest of figs and almonds.

Trends in food preparation:

The former colonies in Africa, India and the Far East have influenced Portuguese cuisine making it very different from the nearby Mediterranean countries. Many herbs and spices such as pepper, saffron, ginger and coriander were introduced into Europe by the Portuguese, as were coffee, pineapples, potatoes and rice amongst other ingredients. Portuguese recipes are characterized by their use of a wide variety of spices, for example, piripiri (a spicy chili pepper), vanilla, cinnamon and saffron. Southern Portuguese cuisine has Arab and Moorish influences and an old tradition of almond and fig sweets.

Important Ingredients  are chillies, vinegar, tomatoes, potatoes, cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves, cheese, fruits like mangoes and pineapples, cashew nuts  and wine.

Cooking equipment: Most Portuguese dishes don’t require any special tools. However, having a coffee grinder helps with roasting and grinding spices and maximizes their volatile oils, which provides the food with more flavor. Ranging from cake pans, can openers, colanders, egg rings, poachers and holders, food dishers and portioners, food pans and food containers to other kitchen utensils, such as food scales, food scoops and fryer baskets and accessories, the Portuguese cuisine needs a diverse cooking equipment set in order to produce the most sophisticated Portuguese dishes.

A few other items that come handy while cooking Portuguese food include kitchen knives, kitchen slicers, kitchen thermometers, measuring cups & measuring spoons, miscellaneous utensils, mixing bowls and skimmers and strainers. Essential utensils like serving spoons, spatulas, forks, turners, scrapers and tongs should also be part of your cooking equipment.

Portuguese Cuisine

The Portuguese had a lasting influence on Goan Catholic cuisine, and delicacies like Vindalho, Cafreal, Balchao and Sorpotel have achieved cult status. On the other hand, the many vegetarian dishes of Goan Hindu cuisine, which has much in common with that of the Konkan region of Maharashtra, are not easily available outside Hindu homes. They also brought a host of kitchen techniques like baking of bread and distilling of alcohol which has won for Goa the dubious distinction of being the land of ‘paowallahs’, and lovers of a spirited life!

Chef Deepa Awchat  is among Bombay’s five best-loved restaurateurs and recognized for her  contribution to the hospitality and catering industry. Her hugely popular restaurant Goa Portuguesa in Mahim, Mumba (it recently celebrated its 25 years of success), specializes in authentic Goan food. She authored India’s first designer restaurant cook book titled ‘The Goa Portuguesa Cookbook’ and ‘The Authentic Goa Cookbook’. She has received the Maharashtra Gaurav Award from Maharashtra Kala Niketan for excellence in Culinary Arts by C.M.Shri Vilasroa Deshmukh. She has conducted various cookery shows for Hospitality Training Institutes, Times Now, Star T.V, Doordarshan, NDTV, CNN IBN, Zee Khana Khazana’s show with Sanjeev Kapoor, and won the cookery contest ‘Ali Khan’s Kitchen’ on Star TV.

About Goa Portuguesa: The ISO 9001:2000 certified restaurant (like its Groups well-known authentic restaurants Culture Curry & Diva Maharashtracha) churns out over 200 mouth watering Goan veg and non-veg dishes ranging from soups, starters, salads, accompaniments to a variety of main course dishes. It also serves local and international alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Its ethnic Goan food is modified and standardized to suit the urban palate, while retaining the authentic taste of the original. .

Investment required for setting up a basic Portuguese food kitchen

Minimum area: 800 sqft (kitchen, storage and back area) Rs 20 lakh (approx) in a metropolitan city like Mumbai.

Cost of a meal for two:
Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,800

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