Thank you for visiting and sharing this blog post about what to eat, while visiting the Algarve in Portugal. It was rather complicated to make this list because there are many other excellent choices to make. We feel that if you have the opportunity to try these on your next visit, you will indeed have, not only contributed to the local community by purchasing local and regional products, you will have also tasted the most traditional sea sourced food available and have relished in an experience of a lifetime. Get your taste buds ready with this Faro Airport Transfers Blog post on what to eat in the Algarve.
It should surprise no one that sardines are widely available throughout the Algarve. Sardines are not only popular in the Algarve, they are popular anywhere you go in Portugal and are an inexpensive meal to enjoy at any restaurant that has them. The sardines should be fresh (don’t be afraid to ask if they have been frozen), and traditionally grilled over coal. Sardines are normally served with boiled potatoes, grilled green peppers and a simple lettuce, tomato and onion salad. Salt, olive oil and bread should be at hand to make this dish complete. Add a nice bottle of white wine and feel grateful.
These are a real treat if you know where to eat them, and are guaranteed to make your taste buds explode in waves of flavour that will surely make you return for more, time and again. One simple and important rule to follow when deciding whether to have clams or not in our opinion is to simply look at the color of the shells. Clams are normally on display and if the clams have a mix of pale white, brown and grey, find yourself a table and have a seat. If the clams seem dark with tones ranging from dark grey to black, you are most likely better off trying something else from the menu, as the waters those clams originate from may not have been ideal for them to grow in (the Faro Airport Transfers Blog is not sure about the science behind this claim, but insider information gathered from locals and the personal experience of having tried both types on various occasions, have made this a rule of thumb to follow.).
When ordering clams, ask for “Ameijoas Bolhao Pato” or buy them from your local fisherman if you can, and make them at home since they are very simple to prepare. The clams must be washed well to remove any sand they may still have. A pot with chopped garlic, olive oil and salt should be brought up to a boil, the clams thrown in and the lid placed on the pot (no water should be added as the clams should cook in their own juices). Once the clams begin to open after about five to ten minutes, chopped coriander in a large quantity should be mixed in and a glass of white wine added to the mix. Once most of the wine has had time to evaporate, the clams should be ready to serve. There are slight variances and “special touches” some restaurants may choose to implement in preparing this dish witch will explain why they may taste slightly different from one restaurant to another, even if they are serving clams from the same origin, so have fun trying as many as you can!
Sun Dried Octopus
This one will take some effort to find because it is not a very common offering in restaurants and you will most likely have access to them by engaging a member of the local community to be able to enjoy them. Sun dried octopus can be eaten as a snack with wine or beer by simply slicing it up and chewing away. It has an intense and salty taste that will surely help you put down a couple of drinks.
Next time you happen to see an octopus hanging on a close line, you will know why it’s there!
The Algarve is also rich in oysters and following the rule of trying to source them in clean waters will guarantee the most delightful experience. Clams are prepared by locals in mostly two ways, either raw (ao natural) or grilled in the shell till they open. These are a great treat to enjoy with a couple of drops of lemon and Portuguese green wine, so make sure you start off one of your meals with these.
Goose Barnacles or Leaf Barnacles
These are a special treat to enjoy in the Algarve and you should know that it is actually a life threatening occupation to gather them, as they normally grow in areas that are very difficult to access and that the fishermen who dive to remove them from rocks in the ocean many times lose their lives in this activity. It should come at no surprise that the price to pay for this delicacy is higher than you may first expect and it is important that you keep in mind why it is so. Goose barnacles also known as leaf barnacles can be enjoyed in most of the Algarve region and are most common and popular towards the west coast where they are more available in those waters.
Blue Mussels or Common Mussels
Thirty years ago, moles, piers and ocean rocks in the Algarve were literally covered in these black mussels that have gradually seemed to suffer a decline, mostly because of how tasty they are to eat. Not to worry though as they are still widely available in restaurants and in less accessible places along the coastline. There are many ways to prepare them and it is not uncommon to find them mixed in to seafood dishes.
Grooved Razor Shells
You will enjoy this port town specialty in some restaurants that will most likely prepare them as a rice or bean based dish, in a soup or less commonly, grilled. Fishermen in Alvor for example, can bee seen carrying these in full to the rim buckets, as they are abundant, and can be skillfully caught by using a long metal rod that is prodded in to the ground of the river bed witch then magically pulls up this treat.
Cockles are a popular food from the sea in the Algarve with rights to their own dedicated festival in the small town of Figueira in Portimao. At this September festival, literally tons of these wavy hard shelled clams are prepared in so many ways you will have a hard time choosing your favorite manner of having them and that will not be a problem as they are not very expensive yet, and exist in large quantities so the time to indulge is now.
You may likely only find these at specialty seafood restaurants commonly known as “Marisqueiras” in Portugal and can expect to pay a premium to enjoy them. We have used the term sea snails in this post to refer to these three species, that can be consumed in various manners. Normally, boiling them in salt water will be sufficient to get them ready to be served and eating them will require some skill using either a toothpick or a seafood fork. The boiling times for each of these delicacies is 5 minutes for “Burries”, 15 minutes for “Buzios” and 25 minutes for “Canilhas”. If you are lucky and your social and language skills allow you to mingle with local fishermen, you may be fortunate enough to buy a kilo or two of these before they are purchased by the many local “Marisqueiras” and prepare them yourself.
In conclusion, some of the most important and memorable experiences you will have in the Algarve will involve food, and knowing what to eat and where to eat will enrich those experiences. The Algarve continues to be very inexpensive when compared to various other European travel destinations and “playing it safe” by adhering to your regular food habits, whether it be, steak, pizza, pasta, etc.. (which we love by the way!) will lead you to miss out an excellent opportunity to try new, delicious and healthy world class alternatives, you will find impossible to forget. Believe it.
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