If there is one constant in Portuguese food it is the mighty, iconic Bacalhau. This Portuguese salted cod is found nearly on every traditionl Portuguese menu – often in dozens of preparations. It is in fact rumored that over 500 canonized Balcahu recipes exist in Portuguese cuisine. Some of the most popular Bacalhau dishes are Bacalhau com Natas and Bacalhoada, but there is a Bacalhau recipe to suit nearly every taste.
Christmastime is an especially important time for the Bacalhau – as it is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve by Portuguese families. Bacalhau can be found in many forms – filleted and dried, in cans, and even frozen is gaining popularity. We were also amused to find specal “Christmas Bacalhau” for sale. Basically these are the normal splayed, dried and salted bacalhau, but wrapped in cellophane and topped with a red bow. We thought this was a one-off, but we actually saw this festive gift-ready presentation in several Lisbon stores leading up to Christmas.
This calls to mind the Italian tradition of the feast of the seven fishes, which we have written about previously. In Italian, Bacalhau is called Baccala, and sorry to say we do not much care for that either, perhaps betraying our Italian heritage a bit. But, bacalhau is the real heart of Portuguese cuisine, and if you don’t at least try it – you are missing out! You never know when you will need that 7th fish dish for the Feast of Seven Fishes.