Simple grilled or fried steaks of beef, veal and pork are common, while chicken is enlivened by the addition of piri-piri (chilli) sauce, either in the cooking or provided on the table.
Meat is usually at its best when barbecued (no churrasco). Also ubiquitous are porco à alentejana (pork cooked with clams), which originated, as its name suggests, in Alentejo, and rojões (chunks of roast pork, served with black pudding) from the north (mainly Minho and Douro). Leitão – spit-roast suckling pig – is distinctly Portuguese, too, at the centre of many a communal feast, particularly in Beiras. It’s either served sliced and cold, or – better – just off the coals. Roast kid (cabrito) is ubiquitous in mountain areas, while another Beiras speciality, chanfana (goat stew), is usually served in a traditional earthenware pot.
Duck is usually served shredded and mixed with rice (arroz de pato); rabbit is served in rural areas (a caçadora, hunter’s style, as a stew), and roasted quail (cordoniz) is often on the menu too.
However, steel yourself for a couple of special dishes that local people might entice you into trying. Porto’s tripas (tripe) dishes incorporate beans and spices but the heart of the dish is still recognizably chopped stomach-lining; while cozido à portuguesa, widely served in restaurants on a Sunday, is a stomach-challenging boiled “meat” stew in which you shouldn’t be surprised to turn up lumps of fat, cartilage or even a pig’s ear. Other traditional dishes use pig’s or chicken’s blood as a base – the words to look for are sarrabulho and cabidela – though the addition of cumin, paprika and other spices can turn these into something quite delicious.
Accompanying nearly every dish will be potatoes, either fried in the case of most meat dishes or boiled if you’ve ordered ﬁsh. The distinction is less marked in tourist resorts on the Algarve and elsewhere, but trying to get chips to come with your grilled trout or salmon in a rural town simply invites incomprehension – ﬁsh comes with boiled potatoes and that’s that. Most dishes are also served with a helping of rice and salad. Other vegetables occasionally make an appearance, though salads are more common. Any restaurant can certainly rustle up on request a mixed salad (salada mista) of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and olives.
For dessert, you’ll almost always be offered either salada da fruta (fruit salad), fresh fruit, the ubiquitous Olá, Miko or Gelvi ice cream lists, pudim ﬂan (crème caramel), arroz doce (rice pudding) or torta da noz (almond tart). The presence of home-made desserts on a restaurant’s menu is a good indicator of how seriously they take their food, but no restaurant will have the range of cakes and pastries you’ll ﬁnd in a pastry shop (see below). Cheese is widely available, but is usually eaten as a starter when it is generally either the hard queijo seco (goat’s or sheep’s cheese) or cottage-cheese like queijo fresco