When traveling around Portugal, in almost every town you will discover a typical local dish or a dessert which locals love and are proud of. Most of the time, main dishes involve meat, sometimes fish, so vegetarian or vegan travellers might experience hard time when eating out. When it comes to sweets, they are mainly made of egg yolks and sugar. In general, Portuguese food is simple, but it does not mean it's not tasty. Usually, the secret is about the quality of the ingredients and careful preparation. If you would like to check it out for yourself, follow this guide for a real gourmet tour through central Portugal.
Driving along the National Road 1, around Mealhada, you will find literally dozens of restaurant preparing the favourite Portuguese piglet - the famous roasted piglet from Bairrada ("leitão assado à Bairrada"). This dish is famous for its crispiness and golden colour. Its preparation takes hours and an experienced cook who knows how to spice it and cook to perfection. In 2011 it was one of the finalists of "Seven Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy" competition.
There are eels living in the Lagoon of Aveiro, and some of them end up in the most famous local dish and one of the gastronomic symbol of the city — "Caldeirada de Enguias à Moda de Aveiro" (Eel stew Aveiro style). Gourmet-enthusiasts come from faraway to enjoy this dish of the unique colour, spiced up with a mixture of ginger or saffron (opinions are divided) and pepper. The second "secret" ingredient seems to be fat from the pork belly. The locals of Aveiro say that the best caldeirada is served in Palhuça restaurant, in the old neighbourhood of Aveiro - Beira Mar.
For veal lovers, "Vitela à Moda de Lafões" is a dream dish. Meat in this dish is so juicy and tender thanks to the special process of preparation and cooking, just to the point before it becomes dry. Although nowadays it can be find in many places, the geographical origin of this iconic dish is in the region of Viseu, with the subregions of Oliveira de Frades, Vouzela, and São Pedro do Sul. There are also several restaurants in Aveiro where you can taste very well prepared "Lafões veal" - I suggest the famous Evaristo restaurant.
"Chanfana" is recommended only for the champions of heavy gourmet food. It's done with rooster meat but usually sheep or goat meat is added too, making "chanfana" another dish of improbable mix of meats in Portuguese cuisine. The dish is famous around the central Portugal, but Miranda do Corvo is considered "the capital of chanfana". There are several stories of how the dish was invented, but none of them has been officially confirmed. One says it was first made during the French invasion in the early 19th century, when the nuns of the Monastery of Semide, cooked their animals to prevent the French from stealing them. As French army had poisoned the waters, the nuns used wine for their preparation. Nowadays, "chanfana" is done with other kinds of meet too. In the video you can see how to make the one of rabbit meat.
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