Portuguese love to rave about petiscos. From the fresh octopus salad to the delicious clams, we can’t get enough of them! So feast your eyes as we reveal some of the best petiscos in Lisbon.
So what are petiscos anyway? Well for starters, they’re not tapas. Yes, they’re both used to describe a variety of small dishes, but it’s much more than that. For Portuguese, it’s an experience.
There is even a verb, petiscar, which essentially means to savor something special. And that’s what a petisco is — a special treat. You shouldn’t keep it to yourself though, petiscos are made to share.
So gather a group of friends, order some beers and pick your favorite petisco, we’ll join you there!
1. Salada de Polvo
Summer in Portugal always calls for at least one salada de polvo (octopus salad). First-timers might be put off by its appearance, but trust us, this is one of the best seafood dishes you can try in Lisbon!
Octopus, tomato, onion and olive oil are the main ingredients used in this delicious cold salad. Some like to add potatoes to the mix, but it’s not as common.
One thing an octopus salad must have is the herbs. Coriander or parsley, it’s really up to the cook to decide. Most restaurants will give you a bit of bread as well, if they don’t, make sure to order some. You will need it to soak up all that sauce at the end!
2. Ameijôas à Bulhão Pato
You’ll find clams in many Portuguese dishes, like Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams) or the Cataplana (seafood stew). But it’s in the Ameijôas à Bulhão Pato that they shine.
What’s so special about this petisco? Well, it’s all in the sauce. First, they cook the clams with a bit of garlic, olive oil, and white wine. Then they add fresh coriander and drizzle it with lemon juice. That’s pretty much it. So simple, yet so tasty.
The best clams are served straight from the pot!
3. Peixinhos da Horta
They call them peixinhos (little fish), but there’s nothing fishy about them! It’s probably one of the few vegetarian petiscos in Portugal.
The name peixinhos da horta translates as little fishes from the garden, and it’s basically green beans coated in batter.
There’s no way you can have just one, as they always come in pairs. How else could you share them?
Here’s something you might not know: this dish was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese and gave origin to the tempura.
Pica-pau is by far one of our favorite Portuguese petiscos. The little chunks of meat marinated in garlic make our mouths water every time we see it on the menu!
Traditionally they use pork, but we love the beef one more. Pickles, mustard, and chili are also common ingredients of the pica-pau.
Each restaurant has their version of the dish, so it’s always exciting to try a different one.
If you visit Lisbon in the fall, winter or spring, you won’t find them on the menu. But when the summer reaches the city, so do the signs for caracóis (snails). Suddenly, you’ll get a bunch of invitations to go out and eat snails over a beer or two.
Unlike the French, Portuguese don’t use butter. Instead, they cook the snails with olive oil, onion, garlic and lots of oregano.
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Sometimes the hardest part is getting them out of their shells, that’s why they give you toothpicks!
Joana is a Portuguese travel writer based in Lisbon. On her blog City Odes, she writes about the hidden gems of Portugal, fun road trips and train rides worth taking. When she’s not typing away on her laptop, you can find her drinking an IPA on one of Lisbon’s latest craft beer bars.