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Portugal

From Sardines to Sausages: Exploring Portuguese Cuisine

ES guest writer Faith brings us the food travel lowdown on the savory land that is Portugal.

From freshly caught grilled sardines and salted dried cod dishes to hearty smoked sausage stews and the famous piri-piri chicken, Portugal has some seriously flavorful food. Paprika, garlic, bay leaves, chili and olive oil are popular additions to many Portuguese dishes, and the resulting flavors will leave you coming back for more. These popular dishes make this a culinary destination that deserves to be better known.

1. Pasteis de Nata – Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts

Pasteis de nata

The Pasteis de Nata is a creamy, flaky, egg custard tart, topped with sugar and cinnamon. The tart originated in Lisbon in the 18th century at a bakery in the Santa Maria de Belem parish, and the bakery itself has now become a popular tourist attraction, serving over 10,000 tarts a day. Lines are inevitable, but it’s well worth the wait to try this distinctive treat from its original source.

2. Pão – Bread

Traditionally, Portuguese meals were served on a slab of crusty bread to soak up all the juices and to provide a filling meal. Today, plates have replaced this method of serving food, but bread is still an integral part of most meals. Bread also varies widely from region to region, with each having its own speciality. Pão de Centeio is predominantly found in the North—this is a rye bread, which is dark and dense. The sweet Bolo de Ferradura loaf can be found in the Ribatejo region, combining unusual flavors such as star anise and lemon. It is often horseshoe-shaped and served at weddings to bring good luck. Pão com Chouriço is the Portuguese substitute for the American hotdog, but more delicious as it is made with Portuguese smoked sausage and fresh dough.

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The World Cup of Food

S. Africa FIFA World Cup Mascot

Image Courtesy of Nestor Cerami

We couldn’t let soccer’s 2010 FIFA World Cup go by without throwing in our two cents — which as you might expect, has less to do with our feet than with our mouths. So while serious sports fans spend this week debating which squads got the crap draw and which teams are most likely to make the second round, foodies can put all that aside and take a look at our 2010 World Cup Food and Drink Rankings, in which we’ve ranked the 32 participating nations from worst to best, based not on soccer skills but on the appeal of each country’s most iconic dish.

For the record, I offer no apologies for the dishes or the order in which they are ranked—I had many discussions with my international friends when researching these and they have disagreed with me on many—for that, you can leave your opinions in the comments.

#32. Australia – Vegemite on Toast

Australia - Vegimite on Toast

Usually when there is a petition on Facebook in support of something, you know it’s a desperate plea, and Vegemite on Toast is no exception. This isn’t one of those love-it-or-hate-it kind of foods, this is simply a hate it kind of food. Yes, there are nearly 111,000 facebook users on the record as supporting it, but I’m pretty sure that’s roughly the population of Australia, right? Let’s hope for their sake that the Aussie lads find something better to chow on before their matches in South Africa.

#31. Ivory Coast – Kedjenou

Ivory Coast - Kedjenou

Factoid: the current coach of the Ivory Coast team is former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. I’m sure old Sven has some tricks up his sleeves planned for the field, but you’ve got to admire the Ivory Coast’s cooking tricks, too. Kedjenou, like many other West African dishes, starts with some tough old chickens and basically cooks the shit out of them ’til they’re edible. It may not be the quickest way to make a meal taste good, but it sure as hell beats Vegemite.

#30. Slovenia – Buckwheat

Slovenia - Wilted Greens with Buckwheat Noodles

I task you with something — Google “Slovenia” and “food.” Whatever the result is it’ll surely include buckwheat. Buckwheat, buckwheat and more buckwheat. Could you be any more boring, Slovenian cooks? If you must have a Slovenian soccer dish, I sifted through the ES archives and stumbled upon this tasty dish, vegetarian too — Wilted Greens with Buckwheat Noodles (and an egg).

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