Beginning in the 15th century when Prince Henry the Navigator introduced exotic foods and spices during Portugal’s “Age of Discovery,” Portuguese cuisine has developed into a gastronomic favorite for ethnic food lovers worldwide. Such influences helped Portugal develop its own unique food style that features lots of seafood (due to its oceanic geography), meat (especially pork) tomato, olive oil and spices. Amaral’s Market dedicates itself to preserving the culinary history of Portuguese cooking by making such food specialties available to online shoppers throughout the continental United States. The following information provides the unacquainted cook with a brief introduction to some traditional fare enjoyed at local area Portuguese restaurants and homes… from appetizing soup to traditional dishes to delectable desserts. We also recommend further exploration of Portuguese cuisine by referencing cookbooks noted within our website.
Wine, Cheese & Bread:
Along with its European neighbors, Portugal shares a long history of winemaking tradition and is the seventh largest producer in the world. Portugal is renowned for cultivating a large variety of native grape breeds (285) yielding an extensive variety of regional wines with distinctive personalities. The most popular Portuguese wines include Port, Madeira, “vinho verde” (Mateus) and moscatel de Setubal. Although Amaral’s is unlicensed to sell such fine wines, they perfectly complement the foods we sell and are readily available on a local basis nationally. Consult a wine guide to find the exact wine for whatever Portuguese dish you plan on preparing.
Cheese is a daily staple of Portuguese cuisine… but surprisingly, not within traditional recipes. Instead, popular regional cheeses are enjoyed separately either before or after a main dish— along with a glass or two of vintage Portuguese wine, of course. Portuguese cheeses are customarily made from goat or sheep’s milk, or in combination. The Azorean Island of Sao Jorge, is famous for a slightly more spicy cheese taste called “Queijo de Sao Jorge” which is made from cow’s milk. A variety of Azorean cheeses, as well as several well-known mainland (continent) including Serra cheeses, are available online at Amaral’s Market.
Bread is a staff of life essential among the Portuguese people. As a testament to its ongoing cultural popularity, in the small city of New Bedford where Amaral’s Market is located, over 20 Portuguese specialty bakeries produce traditional Portuguese rolls (referred to as “pops”) and loaf breads daily (both available at Amarals). The typical Portuguese white bread is quite soft and airy with a semi-hard crust requiring soft spreadable butter to maintain form. Besides everyday white breads, a sensational “classic” you will surely want to order is Portuguese Sweet Bread! This lightly textured bread, called Massa Sovada or simply Massa, made with milk, sugar and/or honey offers bread lovers a subtly sweet taste greatly enhanced with butter. Originally baked around th
e holidays, (with hard-boiled eggs baked into round shaped loaves for Easter) sweet bread is readily available year-round and usually served at breakfast or as a dessert. Our packaging and shipment methods ensure your sweet bread will reach you freshly baked.
Portuguese cuisine is traditional cooking at its best and among the tastiest of ethnic foods. If you are a soup connoisseur, consider starting your Portuguese meal with a cup of the esteemed Caldo Verde soup (customarily referred to as “green soup”). Its famous green color comes from finely shredded Galician cabbage leaves although kale and collards are good substitutions this side of the Atlantic.
As one might expect from a seafaring country, many prominent recipes take advantage of various combinations of plentiful seafood. “Bacalhau” …Portugal’s most revered national dish, features dried, salted codfish bone in or boneless. Since Portugal’s fishing tradition began centuries before the invention of refrigeration, authentic salted cod for Bacalhau must be soaked in water or milk before baking as a casserole with various compilations of potatoes, onions, olive oils, hot peppers, etc. The most notable recipe is Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. However, folklore reveals there are 365 Bacalhau recipes available… one to enjoy each day of the year!
Other Portuguese fish preparation alternatives include grilled, boiled (including poached and simmered), fried or deep-fried, roasted and stewed dishes. Caldeirada is a favorite fish stew accompanied by potatoes, tomatoes and onions while grilled sardines (sardinhas assadas) remains an appreciated delicacy among the Portuguese. Amaral’s Market online seafood menu offers shoppers Norwegian and Canadian dried, salted cod— plus frozen whole and canned sardines; and tuna all imported from Portugal. Because our store carries a complete line of fresh seafood received daily from local docks, we can also provide you with other seafood items of all kinds on a special order basis. Please contact us for further details.
Pork is the most popular meat within Portuguese cuisine… especially when it comes to their spicy signature smoked sausages called Linguiça and Chouriço (hotter variety). These smoke-cured pork sausages, heavily seasoned with paprika, garlic and onions, offer a distinct and appealing flavor no matter what your ethnicity. They represent a flexible and zesty taste ingredient for a smorgasbord of everyday foods in need of a flavorful kick. For example, pizza lovers in Portuguese-American communities order Linguiça pizza (as a sliced or ground) above all others topping choices. During Thanksgiving, many households will prepare two kinds of stuffing, a regular non-meat dressing and one made with Chouriço. The latter is rarely still available for turkey sandwiches the following day. You’ll be pleased to know Amaral’s Market carries “homemade” Linguiça and Chouriço pork products.
For those who can afford the extra calories, Portugal’s best-kept culinary secret might be its assortment of sweet desserts, cakes and pastries. They are commonly sugar based rich with egg yolk and quite filling after a heavy Portuguese meal. Typical desserts are rice pudding (Arroz Doce), decorated with cinnamon, and caramel custard (Flan) …a delightful light custard originating in Spain sitting in a basin of semi-sweet soft caramel. Most Portuguese styled cakes are characteristically yellow based, filled with buttery crèmes and topped with a diverse assortment of fruits. Sweet rice and flan desserts are easy to prepare with multi-pack mixes and caramel sauce available online at Amaral’s Market.