When you think of an island and its traditional dishes, fish is the first thing that comes to mind. And, sure, there is fresh and good fish on Madeira Island, just like there is on Malta or on the Greek Islands. But that is not what you should be trying if you go to Madeira.
Instead, try the milho frito, which literally translated would be something like “fried corn”, but it has nothing to do with your idea of fried corn actually. Milho frito is usually a side for meat or fish dishes, and though it may look funny, it’s worth a try.
It is made with Harina P.A.N, which is white corn meal, water, salt and chopped collard greens and there is also a version that includes fava beans, but that is not for everyone’s taste. It is not easy to make, some technique or even arm strength is needed because if the cook stops stirring the big wood spoon it will create lumps and the milho will go bad.
After it is cooked, they let it cool, cut it in small pieces and fry it. Back in the day people would only fry it after four or five days – it lasts a long time if it is in the fridge. They would eat it hot right after being cooked, the kids would add milk and even sugar and on the next days they would eat it cold.
Some people still eat it like that, but for a tourist to try it only if they know someone from Madeira, restaurants don’t have it (which is a shame). And a tip, if you are lucky enough to know someone who would do it for you, ask them to try the slightly burnt pieces that lay on the bottom of the pan. #yummy
Though this is a traditional dish from Madeira, it ends up being a mixture of cultures, since the white corn meal used to cook it is from Venezuela – there are a lot of immigrants from Madeira there – and it is the same white corn the Venezuelans use to do the famous “arepas.” Go for the fish, stay for the milho frito.