The cuisine of northern Portugal is one of the richest and most varied in the country. A region of traditional flavors, the North invites visitors to try out its finest dishes, served with wines and complemented by desserts.
The restaurant menus throughout the coastal area include fresh fish and shellfish dishes, as well as other delicacies such as trout and lamprey eel from freshwater rivers. Some of the recipes in the area use salted cod, and sardines are the “queen of the night” in Porto's most popular festivity -- the feast of S. João (St. John) in which Sardinhas Assadas (grilled sardines) are popular.
Inland areas supply succulent and tender meats that make this region a major attraction for hunting enthusiasts. In the inland Northern areas, we find smoked meats and sausages in Chaves and Lamego, spicy garlic sausage ("alheiras") in Mirandela, and pickled pork sausage ("salpicões") in Vinhais.
The desserts are based on centuries old recipes, originally made in convents, that provide the perfect end to any meal.
The North's gastronomical diversity may be appreciated in modern restaurants or in cozy, local taverns. Cuisine and craft fairs also provide access to the North's typical cuisine.
In a Northern meal, we begin with appetizers. The options vary from bolinhos de bacalhau (cod cakes) or rissóis (battered delicacies) to be found in Porto`s Ribeira, with a view of the river, to the iscas (potato fritters) with cod, octopus or cured ham. Soup is also a must, whether you opt for caldo verde from Minho (made with vegetables, potato and accompanied by chouriço sausage), or the stone soup from Trás-os-Montes (including meat).
For those who prefer fish, there are many specialities with cod, which are prepared in different ways from region to region. In summer, hake and trout are particularly sought after, as well as sardines. For those who prefer substantial food, there is the Feijoada de Trás-os-Montes (stew of various meats with beans) or Arroz de Cabidela (rice with chicken blood) from Minho. You could opt as well for Tripas à Moda do Porto (Porto style tripe), Rojões de Porco (fried pork nuggets), or Cozido à Portuguesa (a speciality made from several types of meat with rice, potatoes and vegetables) or, why not, the francesinha (meat sandwich with cheese and spicy sauce) served in Porto.
To finish off this meal, there is still enough room for one of the many desserts prepared by the culinary experts of the North, including leite creme (crème brulée), filhoses (fried cake) from Trás-os-Montes, clarinhas de Fão (pumpkin cake from Fão) good for hot weather and, for the colder weather, toucinho-do-céu (almond dessert cakes), sonhos (sweet pastry dessert) and rabanadas (fried bread delicacy with cinnamon), specialities of Christmas in Portugal.