Mention Portuguese food to a Portuguese person and you’ll uncover a deeply-rooted passion for their cuisine. Visitors to Portugal don’t always understand the appeal as it’s hard to know what to order and what’s worth sampling without guidance.
These books about Portuguese food and drink can help at various stages of your gastronomic journey into Portugal’s flavours.
4 out of 5 of them feature pasteís de nata on the cover but there are plenty of other foodie treats for you to discover.
Note: If you fancy learning how to make these iconic custard tarts, this Hands-On Pastry Cooking Class With Brunch will teach you the secrets and, of course, you get to eat the results of your hard work.
Each of the books has a different focus and format so read on to discover which is right for you. Some are practical, others more inspirational.
Eat Portugal by Lucy Pepper and Célia Pedroso
This excellent practical guide to Portuguese food is written by two foodies, a Brit who’s been living here for many years and a Portuguese journalist who also leads Lisbon food tours.
It’s designed to help you navigate bewildering menus and make more adventurous food choices while in Portugal.
The glossary explains what the various culinary items and ingredients are and gives tips on how to order, serve and eat them. There’s also help with pronunciation and useful food-related phrases plus a Portuguese-English culinary dictionary section.
Célia and Lucy have also included their favourite Lisbon and Porto restaurants to help you track down a decent meal.
Their tried and tested recipes for some of Portugal’s most popular dishes enable you to recreate some of your newly acquired favourites when you get home. The ingredients are simple and should be easy enough to find and the instructions are clear, even to me.
Where can you buy Eat Portugal? The paperback book is available in airports, major bookstores including Bertrand for €15 (or €12 if you do one of Célia’s food tours).
Lisbon in 100 Bites by Zara Quiroga
Don’t be fooled by the title of this Portuguese food book. Although the focus is on Lisbon, many of the dishes in this handy ebook are firm favourites all over Portugal. Zara shares her passion for her country’s food by explaining 100 of the down-to-earth treats that she and her fellow Portuguese love so much.
The book is divided up, menu style, into petiscos (snacks or starters), soups, main dishes and desserts. There’s also a brief section on street food and bar snacks.
Some of my personal favourites, such as sapateira recheada (stuffed crab), polvo à lagareiro (baked octopus) and Serra da Estrela cheese are in there. I’m still not a fan of dishes with ears and trotters but if you’re curious, you can find out more about them here and decide whether or not to risk ordering a portion.
As well as a photo for each entry, Zara provides a description with relevant background information and, where appropriate, tips for ordering and eating.
The Portuguese Travel Cookbook by Nelson Carvalheiro
This is a heftier tome filled with inspirational photos and travel tales to whet your appetite for exploring Portuguese food, its origins and the people and places associated with it. Recipes and descriptions of dishes are interwoven with dialogues, observations and personal stories of fishermen, winemakers, bakers, producers and restaurant owners.
With chapter titles such as Real Fish Has Bones and Memories of a Forgotten Country, navigating this book is quite different from a traditional recipe book. The idea is to leisurely follow Nelson’s culinary tour around Portugal, allowing the beautiful photography and his descriptions of settings and personal encounters to work on your senses.
If you are looking for a specific recipe, there’s an index at the back of the book but you won’t always find a picture of the dish.
Taste Portugal by Maria Dias and Lisa Dias
If you’re looking for a more straightforward recipe book, try Taste Portugal. As the cover promises, you’ll find 101 easy Portuguese recipes written by Maria, aka Tia Maria, and her daughter.
Maria’s family moved to America when she was six and, like many Portuguese emigrants, she still feels a deep connection with her mother country, especially through its food.
Her recipe book is a culmination of years’ spent gathering and honing traditional Portuguese recipes, and sharing them on her blog. Although not all of the recipes have a photo to illustrate them, most do, along with a brief introduction.
Note: If you’re not used to the American way of measuring in cups, it will take you a little longer to calculate amounts using a cups to grams converter.
Fabrico Próprio. The Design of Portuguese Semi-Industrial Confectionery
Behind this uninspiring book title lies a Portuguese cake lover’s dream come true, especially if you’re also into design elements.
Written in both English and Portuguese (so you can work on your language skills while you drool over the cakes), it tells the story of Portuguese cake production and how far their popularity has spread.
You’ll find a photo and description of Portugal’s most popular cakes, including a special section dedicated to the Bola de Berlim, a custard-filled doughnut that many Portuguese associate with summer days on the beach.
Another section is dedicated to renowned cafés attached to bakeries that make their own cakes, some of which I can personally vouch for.
I wrote a more detailed review of Fabrico Próprio a while back. It’s available in bookshops around the country.
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