Eat Like A Local: The Sweet Taste of Portugal
The five sweets that you must try in Portugal
In the first of the Portugal series, let me give you a taste (well OK, a glimpse) of the mind-boggling array of sweets that you will encounter in Portugal. I travelled around the country for two weeks recently, and literally, every city and town has its own speciality sweet or dessert. I wrote about it extensively in an article for Indian Express (link at the end of this post).
So go ahead, feast your eyes on some of the best sweets in Portugal.
Pastéis de Belém
Portugal’s favourite sweet is the pastel de nata or egg custard tart (plural pastéis) – a crisp, flaky pastry shell enclosing a warm, wobbly egg custard. These are available all over Portugal, but you will find the best ones at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém in Lisbon. This place has been doling out these delectable egg tarts since 1837, and today sell about 20,000 tarts every day! Locals and tourists queue up to get a taste of them, but if you’re not pressed for time, wander into the spacious cafe, which has many seating sections where you can park yourself and order a tart along with a cup of coffee.
In central Portugal is the city of Aveiro, called the Venice of Portugal on account of its pretty canal network and humpbacked bridges. The city is known for its Art Deco architecture, but its real claim to fame is the ovos moles, bite-size sweets made with egg and sugar encased in a thin wafer coating. These are shaped according to a nautical theme and you will find shell, fish, barrel, and clam-shaped ovos moles at Maria de Apresentaçao da Cruz, a shop that has been making these sweets since 1882.
Queijada de Tentúgal
This was my second favourite sweet after the Belém custard tarts. It’s a sort of cheesecake made with a mixture of cottage cheese, flour, eggs, and sugar, which is placed in a pastry case and baked. It’s not as sweet as many of the other Portuguese sweets, and I really loved its sweet-savoury taste. Try it at O Afonso bakery in Coimbra.
This is the traditional Christmas Cake that is made across Portugal, but it’s most popular in Porto. It’s a rather rich cake with raisins, nuts, and caramelised fruit in it. One of Porto’s most popular bakeries Tavi Confeitaria makes the city’s best bolo rei. The picture below is from Confeitaria Nacional in Lisbon.
Segredo de Don Pedro
Opposite the stunning Gothic Alcobaça Monastery in central Portugal is the Pastelaria Alcoa, which has one of the most eye-popping pastry displays I have seen. Its best-selling pastry is Cornucopia, but I really loved Segredo de Don Pedro a thin pastry sheet encasing a mix of apples, pine nuts, oats, and raisins.
Take a look at the video below and then, start plotting your sugar-fuelled journey through Portugal!
This article was commissioned by Indian Express and was published in their Sunday Magazine Eye on April 9, 2017. Read it here.