Once you get to Portugal and more specifically, to Algarve in the south of Portugal, all you want to know about is fresh fish and seafood!
Fish and shellfish are very important elements to Algarve cuisine with a great range of fresh fish available year round.
It was August in Algarve, and I am almost sure that for the 2 weeks that we spent there, almost one meal a day included fish or seafood. Simply grilled over charcoal, it is hard to beat the deliciousness of sea bass, sea bream, mackerel or the humble sardine.
In many Algarve fish restaurants, the catch of the day is sold by weight. Choose your fish, check its weight and onto the grill it goes. One of these warm summer days, we decided to go to Tavira Island, in East Algarve. A long beach, that apart from being part of one of Ria Formosa’s islands has enough restaurants with fresh fish right there under the sun where you can eat with your feet in the sand.
In one of those restaurants, we had a 2 Kg Sea bream over charcoal that was insanely fresh and tasty! That Sea bream was enough for 4 people. Along with it, some potatoes cooked with skin, and the “salada montanheira”, that is a fresh tomato salad, grilled green pepper, cucumber, onions, some ice cubes and plenty of olive oil and vinegar and oregano. The perfect match for this insane fish that was served for lunch.
We also had fresh fish in Lagos, (West Algarve) and mainly in Albufeira (Algarve center).
We enjoyed everything from prawns to crab or mussels, clams, octopus and squid. There was so much seafood and fish meals that it is hard to describe them all. Most of these meals were joined with a glass of cold “vinho verde” (green Portuguese wine), or a very cold beer!
In all those places on the beach, with the sea as our view, at lunch or at the sunset, there was always very good and very fresh fish. But there is nothing like home! And it was in the house of a typical Algarvian family, that we had the BEST grilled sardines.
There it was a tray of 40 fat and fresh sardines, only sprinkled with sea salt, ready for the grill over charcoal.
The ritual of eating grilled sardines should be: grab a slice of the traditional Portuguese bread baked in a wood-fired oven, place it on your plate, and then put the grilled sardine on top. Using your fork or just your hands (because if the sardine is really fresh and grilled to perfection, the meat will come off in one piece), eat your sardine. Or should I say, eat your sardines! Important note, the slice of bread stays until the end to be used for absorbing all the juices from the sardine. Leave it until the end, it will be worth it! Trust me 😉
Like with all the grilled fish, normally it’s eaten along with young potatoes boiled with skin, grilled green peppers, and tomato salad. No sauces, nothing else. Just this. Fresh ingredients only. After you fill your belly with the juicy sardines, you take that piece of bread all soaked in the sardine fat, and eat it. It’s just divine!
Summer in Algarve without grilled sardines in a terrace is not summer! 🙂