Bacalhau ! Codfish, a Portuguese specialty
If you are planning to travel to Portugal, you will quickly notice that the "Bacalhau" is everywhere. Bacalhau is the cod, the emblematic fish of Portugal.
The stalls of fish shops are full of them, the menus of restaurants all include a cod dish, and cod preserved in salt can be found in every market and supermarket in the country.
It is quite simple, the Portuguese are the largest consumers of salted cod in the world with 20% of the world's cod consumed in Portugal, an average of 35 kg per person per year!
But, why do the Portuguese have such a fascination for the Bacalhau? What is the history of this fish that has become a real Portuguese specialty? We tell you everything about the Portuguese cod.
The history of Bacalhau
Cod is a fish originally discovered by the Vikings, who caught it in abundance in the cold seas of the Nordic countries. But it was during the Portuguese Great Discoveries that salted cod became an interesting food.
The story begins with the Venetian Giovanni Cabotto, renamed "John Cabot" by the English, who, exploring the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, discovered cod in great quantities, "so many cod that one could walk on the sea".
Cod are easy to catch. It bites on any hook without bait and has an amazing fecundity. Once dried or salted, its conservation is exceptional. All this propelled the cod to the rank of "great international food raw material". And above all, the most strategic foodstuff of the great maritime expeditions.
We know the history of the Great Discoveries of the Portuguese navigators and we understand how the cod found its way from Newfoundland to the port of Lisbon.
The cod consumed in Portugal was therefore mostly imported until the 20th century. In 1920, the Companhia Portuguesa de Pesca (Portuguese Fishing Company) was founded in Lisbon by four small trawler owners and the expansion of the Bacalhau went hand in hand with the growth of the fishing industry.
But the sector is disorganized and the company is not sufficient to meet the country's needs.
During the Estado Novo, Salazar centralized the organization of cod fishing with the objective of acquiring food sovereignty for the country. In 1934, the Codfish Campaign was launched with the aim of making codfish the national foodstuff to counteract famine.
This is how cod became a source of nutrients easily transported throughout the country, from north to south, and became deeply rooted in the culinary identity of Portugal, still sometimes called today "the meat of the poor". It is a perfect accompaniment to potatoes and Portuguese cabbage, which were very popular during the dictatorship.
5 Portuguese cod specialties
During your trip to Portugal, whether in the Douro, Lisbon or the Algarve, you will see that Bacalhau can be eaten with all kinds of sauces, and especially with all kinds of cooking!
Here are 5 Portuguese cod specialties that you should try when you come to Lusitania.
Bacalhau à Brás
This is the most popular Portuguese cod recipe in the country. There is not a restaurant in Lisbon that does not offer this traditional Portuguese dish and we urge you to try it, why not accompanied by a little fado.
Bacalhau à Brás originated in Lisbon, and is said to have been created by a tavern owner in Bairro Alto, named "Brás". This simple typical dish is made with crumbled bacalhau, onions and fried matchsticks, mixed with beaten eggs. Black olives and coriander decorate the dish.
Bacalhau cozido "cooked cod" is the traditional Portuguese Christmas dish. The cod is cooked and presented at the table with hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, cabbage and potatoes and drizzled with olive oil.
Bacalhau cozido - Credit Sr. Bacalhau
As we said, Portuguese cod can be cooked in all its forms. Here, the bacalhau assado "grilled cod" is a cod cooked in the oven, served in cobblestones with potatoes cooked in the oven, the whole, always sprinkled with olive oil.
Bacalhau com natas
Cod with cream. This is a delicious combination of cream and béchamel sauce that is incorporated into a mixture of cod, potatoes and sautéed onion. A crust of grated cheese au gratin covers the dish, making it even more delicious!
Pastéis de bacalhau
The famous cod acras! Unavoidable during Portuguese aperitifs, pastéis de Bacalhau are small fried cod and potato fritters.
The Bacalhau also exists in a can
Of course, Bacalhau is also available in canned form in different recipes:
Bacalhau a Portuguesa
A very simple recipe with olive oil and garlic. To be enjoyed on toast rubbed with garlic and accompanied by a glass of Vinho Verde .
Bacalhau em Azeite
Simply cod, dipped in organic olive oil and canned. To be enjoyed with some steamed potatoes and a glass of Portuguese beer.
Paté de Bacalhau
Paté de Bacalhau Cantara - Luisa Paixão collection
Don't limit yourself to cod and discover the widest collection of Portuguese seafood preserves in the online store by clicking on the picture below.