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Bacalhau salted cod in Lisbon - example of Portuguese cuisine

Portuguese cuisine was something I had never experienced before going to Lisbon in 2010 with my sister as we traveled through Spain and Portugal. One of the icons of Portuguese food is bacalhau – salted cod – so of course I had to try it.

The dish became prevalent about 500 years ago when Portuguese explorers sailed to distant locales, finding cod to be plentiful in the seas off Newfoundland. They salted it for preservation, and the fish-loving nation has consumed it ever since.

I wandered around Lisbon on the day I arrived, checking out the Bairro Alto district before hopping on Tram 28 – one of the trolleys that makes Lisbon feel a lot like San Francisco.

Lisbon tram 28 - excellent public transportation in Europe

Tram 28 does a great circuit of the old part of the city, and at one stop near the waterfront, my sister and I hopped off at a restaurant for some bacalhau.

We stepped inside a dimly lit restaurant packed with locals and were seated by the door. The bacalhau we both ordered came on the bone with a buttery sauce with olives and potatoes.

The fish was excellent, and the salt was not at all overpowering. Despite being preserved, there was no fishy taste, and it paired well with the sauce.

If you find yourself in Portugal, or even some of the former colonies, give it a try.