Discover fascinating facts about Portugal’s dried and salted cod

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine May 2017

Picture by Shatabisha


Not from Portugal

  • One of the most famous Portuguese dishes isn’t actually from Portugal. Cod is caught near Norway, Iceland and Newfoundland. The Portuguese first discovered it off the Newfoundland coast, during their naval explorations in the 16th century.
  • Wanting to bring their catch back to Portugal, the sailors had to conserve the fish. The ancient preservation method of drenching it in salt and letting it dry outside in the sun ensures that bacalhau keeps for many months, even when stored at room temperature. It also produces a rather odd smell.


Soak before eating

  • Perhaps strange in a nation that’s known for its many fresh fish and seafood, but bacalhau is always dried and salted. If a Portuguese would want fresh (and unsalted) cod, which is pretty unlikely, they’d ask for bacalhau fresco.
  • Beware: don’t bite straight into that rock solid piece of bacalhau you just bought. Don’t even try to cook it immediately. First, it should be soaked in cold water for a minimum of 24 hours and up to three days, depending on how salty you like your fish. This water should be changed regularly.


365 recipes

  • Some say there are 1001 bacalhau recipes in Portugal. Others claim that there are 365 different ways to cook it, one for every day of the year. Enjoy the Algarve hasn’t counted (or tried) all of them, but fact is: there’s no need to be bored when it comes to bacalhau.
  • This iconic ingredient in the Portuguese cuisine, and a must-eat on Christmas Eve, is often served with potatoes and a glass of red wine. Yes, you read that right, according to Portuguese traditions bacalhau should be accompanied by red wine instead of white. Alternatively, pair it with vinho verde.


Bacalhau à brás

  • Bacalhau à brás is classic Portuguese comfort food. To make it, soak 400gr dried and salted cod for at least 24 hours, changing the water at least twice. Boil the cod in a big pan of water for 10 minutes. Remove skin and bones and break into small flakes by hand.
  • Meanwhile, cut 500g potatoes into matchsticks shapes, 2 large onions into fine rings and 2 garlic gloves into small bits. Fry the potatoes 3-4 minutes in oil and let dry out on kitchen paper. Sweat onions and garlic until golden, add the cod shreds, and cook for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and stir. Add 6 lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper, turning off the heat before it becomes an omelette. Serve with parsley and black olives on top.


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine May 2017

Posted in Food, Typical Portugal.