Is Portuguese food as good as the Portuguese people say and think it is? The answer to that question is simple, yes, …and no.
Let me explain. After I first moved to Portugal at the beginning of 2017, many of my Portuguese friends would ask me, “How do you like Portugal?” However, they always seemed to preface that question with, “Isn’t the Portuguese food fantastic?” I found it easy to answer their auxiliary question related to Portugal itself since I love the beauty of the country and its welcoming people. However, I would always avoid the question about food because it was too complicated of an answer.
Yes, Portuguese cuisine is delicious. They have a niche and focus on that food exceptionally well. However, the nature of this country has created a somewhat unusual culinary environment. Almost every restaurant where I live, on the Silver Coast, is family owned and operated by Portuguese. Except for Portugal’s two major cities of Lisbon and Porto, this seems to be the norm for all of Portugal, Algarve excluded. Many of these restaurants prepare Portuguese food very well. A little restaurant in Bombarral produces the best-grilled chicken I've ever had. Some of the best fried fish I’ve eaten was at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Peniche. So, the point is, the Portuguese are great cooks of Portuguese food. Unfortunately, that’s all they cook.
Additionally, every restaurant offers pretty much the same menu. Now, that’s fine if you like fish, chicken, pork, rice, and potatoes. Even the sobremesas (desserts) follow the same rule. The same ten delectable Portuguese desserts are in every restaurant or store. However, coming from a country where variety is the norm and that variety is excellent, being limited to just Portuguese food diminishes its quality and excellence over time. Being able to choose between Cajun, Indian, Thai, gluten-free, vegetarian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Chinese, Portuguese, Mexican, seafood, traditional American, Italian, Caribbean, and Soul food restaurants, etc. enhances the individual greatness of each of those types of foods. Sadly, that variety does not exist in Portugal to the degree to which I'm accustomed. Yes, Lisbon and Porto have variety, but those cities are the exception to the Portugal rule.
So, you see, the answer to the question, “Isn’t the Portuguese food fantastic?” isn’t a simple answer for me. Yes, the Portuguese do what they do very well. I simply wish the Portuguese would do it with more variety.