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Portugal's National Food - Salted Cod

Posted: 11/02/14


Portugal's National Food - Salted Cod

Restaurant: Porto Portugal

Nelson: Restaurant Bacalhoeiro is situated on the lovely south bank of the Douro river and specializes in bacalhau, also known as salted cod. Salted cod is the national dish of Portugal, yet there are no cod anywhere near Portugal. Strange, right? Historical, England was a big trading partner and they would trade wine for cod. Cod became so popular in Portugal that it is said there are 365 ways to cook cod in Portugal, one for every day of the year!

Naturally we wanted to try as many cod dishes as possible. To start we tried the Experiencia de Bacalhau, or the Cod Experience (8.50€). This is cod appetizers five ways among them, cod cakes (bottom left), tongue in panko (top right), cod stock in panko (middle), cod bait(top left, not sure what bait means in this context) with cod and peppers, pickled red onion salad with cod and chickpeas with garlic mayonnaise and herbs.

The cod cakes we've seen everywhere and it is like a dumpling or a croquette with cod. It is very salty and has a strong fish taste that you must like to enjoy this. Top left are the fish bait, which I don't know exactly what it means, but it was pretty mild and not fishy at all. It would be better hot, but it was still tasty. The middle one is like the fish from a fish and chips dish with a great crunchy shell. It was my favourite of the five. The salad had really raw ingredients, including possibly the cod itself. Well might be just rehydrated, but not cooked beyond that. Not surprisingly it had a strong and true cod flavour. Lastly, the cod tongue is really fishy and chewy, but the fact it is deep fried, battered and dipped in mayo cuts that strong taste.

The couvert (appetizers) was served first of course and this one just had bread and olives (1.80€ each).
I had the Bacalhau ze do pipo, which is a cod gratin with mayonnaise, mashed potatoes, pickles, salsa and olives (13.50€). It came out piping hot and as expected had a lot of cheese and potato and just a bit of the cod taste. It was quite hearty and went well with some of the other dishes.
Kitty had a contemporary dish, the Bacalhau confitado com vinho do porto (14€) which is baked cod with vacuum port wine, balsamic vinegar reduction, mashed citrus fruits and sprouts. I could not believe the appearance of this cod as it looked like steak or some other land animal. As for the taste, it had a lot of cinnamon and a lot of salt. A bit too much of both actually, but I really enjoyed the meaty texture of the fish here.
Bacalhau a Portuguesa, which is stained cod with Portuguese onion, potato crisps, salsa, olives and julienne peppers. You had to uncover the vegetables to see the cod which was a good thing because they don't eat vegetables much in Portugal. I coudln't really tell the cod was stained and it was chewy and flavourless with the exception of straight up salt. And lots of it. The best part of this dish were the crisps.
This is the Bacalhau Gratinado (10.50€) with shredded cod, leek, carrot, bechamel sauce, cream, cheese and potato sticks. I didn't see the potato sticks, but there were a lot of olives instead. This was my favourite dish for bringing out the natural fish flavour, plus it had the best texture for fish among all the ones at this meal.
This is a picture of the salted cod in the supermarket. Because it is salted and dried, before consuming any bacalhau, the fish must be rehydrated. This involves soaking the cod in water over several days during which the water must be changed out. Slow and labour intensive, yet it strangely became overwhelmingly popular in Portugal. This meal was an overdose of cod, but having tried 9 ways of cod, we still had 356 to go!

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Categories: Appetizer,  Bread,  Deep Fried,  Fish,  Portuguese,  Salad,  

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