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A Lisbon Food Tour and Portuguese Taste Treats

Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal comes with lots of unique taste treats. And, hopping into a rickety old trolley, you can enjoy many of them — from “in cod we trust” to its beloved custard pies — by visiting its traditional shops and colorful market halls.

Complete Video Script

Plenty of character and color is packed into Lisbon — and much of it is edible. To be sure we get the most out of our visit, I’m joined by my friend and fellow tour guide, Cristina Duarte.

Cristina: This is my favorite spot in town: the grocery store, where you find cod.
Rick: Take me inside?
Cristina: Yes.
Rick: This is amazing.
Cristina: You see these fish? This is cod — bacalhau. It’s our national dish.
Rick: So, your favorite place in town. Cod. You must like cod.
Cristina: Yes, a lot. All the Portuguese do. So, this is salted, as you see. And it’s dry.
Rick: OK!
Cristina: And we can eat it, like, so many different ways. You can find it in any restaurant in town.
Rick: So, in the old days, they could preserve it?
Cristina: In salt and then dry it.
Rick: And then how do you prepare it?
Cristina: Well, you have to soak it for 24 hours to 48 hours before, in water, and changing the water, and then you just cook it as a normal fish.
Rick: So, if I go to a restaurant, what is the word I look for?
Cristina: Ba-ca-lhau.
Rick: And I’ll find it on menus?
Cristina: For sure.

Rick: Ah, beautiful.
Cristina: This is one of the 365 ways of cooking cod that I told you.
Rick: So, what do we have in this?
Cristina: In this, as you can see, it is codfish, potato, onion, and parsley, and then it is all deep fried. It’s wonderful. Bolinhos de bacalhau. This is just the perfect snack, either in the morning or in the afternoon.
Rick: It’s like fast food in Portugal.
Cristina: Fast food in Portugal.

Cristina’s favorite eating experiences take us all over town, so we’re traveling by trolley. Many of these have been clattering through town since the 1920s… somehow safely weaving within inches of parked cars as they climb Lisbon’s many hills.
Lisbon’s traditional market hall is our next stop, and a joy to explore. Locals still shop here for the freshest ingredients.

But, as is the case all over Europe, modern buying habits are forcing these old-time markets to evolve. In order for the farmers’ stalls to survive, markets are adding high-energy food courts.

Today, much of this market features branches of restaurants run by local celebrity chefs. It’s a youthful and trendy scene, where you can enjoy a world of enticing dishes at great prices. And for us, it’s the ideal lunch spot mixing quality food, expedience, and fun, shared tables.

The market stands at the base of another steep Lisbon hill. It’s too steep for a trolley, so we’re hopping a funicular. The Elevador da Bica funicular climbs through a rough-and-tumble neighborhood where more tasty bites of Lisbon await.

Small creative wine bars inject an inviting modernity into the old quarter. Along with a warm welcome, you’re sure to gain an appreciation of the local taste treats. No visit to Lisbon is complete without sipping the favorite national drink: port wine.

Cristina: Well, cod is the national food, but port is the national drink.
Rick: I like that.

And our server has complemented this nice tawny port with the right meats and cheeses. Throughout Europe, places like this know how to combine traditional food and wine with a contemporary setting.

We’re just a short trolley connection from the dessert course of our food crawl. To save money, we’re using the local transit pass. You zap in… and zap out. By the way, throughout Europe, pickpockets are hard at work on the buses and trolleys most popular and crowded with tourists. So, enjoy the ride… but keep an eye on your belongings.

Next stop: custard pies. This bakery is popular for their pastéis [pastels] de Belém. You’ll find these treats all over Portugal — and they originated right here.

Behind the busy café scene, a sweet sweatshop cranks out thousands of these tasty delights every day. They tried mechanizing the process, but it just wasn’t the same. Each one is still carefully hand made. Why are these so special? It’s a secret — proudly kept since 1837. Stopping here is a ritual for me with every visit to Lisbon.