Learn how cod has become so popular in the Portuguese identity and culture, and discover some of the places in Lisbon where you can taste this wonder of national gastronomy.
It is no secret that the Portuguese gastronomy is as varied as it is delicious, usually one of the most appreciated points by those who visit us. But among all the variety, there is a typical and mandatory dish: cod.
Currently, the equivalent of 20% of all cod caught worldwide is consumed annually in Portugal.
But why has a fish that inhabits distant waters of the Portuguese coasts become a typical icon in national gastronomy?
The first historical record of this relationship dates from 1353, in a trade agreement between Portugal and England, in which the English sovereign authorized fishing on British coasts for a period of 50 years, suggesting from the outset the importance of this fish in national food.
At the time, Portugal was a predominantly Catholic country, with the clergy largely influencing the customs of the populations. One of the religious impositions was the fasting of meat during specific periods of the year, such as Lent (40 days before Easter), or Christmas. As the fishing fleet at the time was unable to meet the population’s demands, cod preserved in salting was a practical and economical solution for the majority of the population.
With these conservation characteristics, cod also played a very important role in maritime expansion providing an important part of the food for the crews on the ships.
Over time, this fish has become deeply intricated in Portuguese-speaking tradition and culture, making it an obligatory dish for the Portuguese at Christmas.
If you are looking to know more about the history of cod, we recommend visiting the Interpretive Center of the History of Cod, located right next to Praça do Comércio, a mere 15 min walk from the Hotel, where you can even buy this precious fish, or taste it in a specific space.
Given its popularity, there are numerous and good restaurants that you can find in Lisbon to enjoy a meal of this delicacy that is so Portuguese. Here we leave some recommendations among the various possibilities:
O Clube do Bacalhau (the cod club), in Cais do Sodré, situated right next to Arsenal Street, one of the former central locations for the cod trade. The restaurant building was built after the great earthquake of 1755, and was once a bakery and a workshop of nautical engines, preserving decorative elements of these times in its brick vaults. On the ground floor, as on the menu, the highlight is entirely for cod as a central element of Portuguese culture.
On Avenidas Novas you will find Laurentina, O Rei do Bacalhau (the cod king). This house has a huge tradition and a history of almost 50 years to provide the pleasure of a true cod meal, cooked in a variety of manners. In addition, the whole process is 100% handmade, from fishing through soaking to confection.
Casa do Bacalhau, in Beato, is another restaurant where the exclusive menu is dedicated to the noble king of the Portuguese table. It is said that on the site of the restaurant used to be the old stables of the Palace of the Duque of Lafões, and in fact, the area now occupied by the restaurant, is the part of the building where the Duke and his family still live today.
It is impossible to come to Portugal without trying the cod, be it À Gomes de Sá, À Brás, in pastries or in fried patties, it is truly mandatory.
And in case of doubt, the staff of the Hotel Portuense will always be ready to help you make the best decision.