Forget the tapas. In Portugal it’s all about petiscos, the small sharing dishes to enjoy with an ice cold beer or glass of Portuguese wine and some good conversation
‘Every region has a variation of petiscos, the main difference being the inland versus coast, meat versus seafood’
T’S NOT unusual to find bars and restaurants in Portugal specialising in ‘tapas’, but, over the last few years, the Portuguese have proudly been promoting their own equivalent: the traditional petisco.
A word that roughly translates as nibbles or snacks and pronounced petishkush, the principle is the same as that of tapas, the Spanish concept that was successfully exported across the globe. But, as in many things, Portugal’s own version is very distinct, lesser known and utterly delicious.
More commonly found in traditional eateries, such as cafés and family-run tascas, but having seen a wave of modernisation across the country, a petisco can be more or less refined, but the idea is the same: to pick a few different dishes and share with a group of friends, as a light laid-back meal for two, or simply to accompany a quiet glass of wine.
Often, they are eaten either with a fork or just your hands, without forgetting the mandatory bread to dip and scoop up all the delicious sauces. Wash it down with a cold beer at a local petisqueira, or a glass of wine at one of the many sophisticated wine bars to open up across the country in recent years.
Every region has a variation of petiscos, the main difference being the inland versus coast, meat versus seafood. In any case, there are certain dishes that you are bound to find anywhere, inevitably featuring a generous amount of garlic, coriander, lemon and olive oil.
When in season (around summertime), one of the local favourites are snails, and can be found at any traditional eatery bearing the sign ‘Há caracóis’. For those less inclined to try snails, other excellent petiscos include clams, prawns, octopus salad, fried squid, tuna paste, scrambled egg with farinheira sausage or asparagus, pipis (chicken giblets), peixinhos da horta (deep-fried green beans), pataniscas de bacalhau (codfish cakes), pica-pau (slices of beef in a beer sauce), regional cheeses, chouriço or morcela sausage...
The list is endless. There's even a verb for it: petiscar. We recommend picking a handful; it’s the perfect (and most sociable!) way to try Portuguese food. Bom apetite!