If you’re visiting Coimbra, or lucky enough to live there, the big question you’ll be asking yourself is: what should I eat?
You’ll find all the most common Portuguese dishes in Portugal, for example, caldo verde soup, bacalhau dishes like bacalhau com natas and bacalhau à bras, and grilled fish. But those are dishes that you’ll find all over Portugal and you may have tried them plenty of times before. So, instead, look out for a few local dishes that are more typical to Coimbra.
Leitão Assado à Bairrada
Coimbra is in leitão country — specifically Leitão Assado à Bairrada which is probably the most popular style of cooking leitão in Portugal — and so you’ll see a lot of leitão restaurants in Coimbra.
Leitão, if you haven’t already heard of it, is suckling pig or baby pig. It’s fatty and delicious, although often quite salty, and so something you’ll definitely need a few glasses of wine to wash down.
Leitão Assado à Bairrada is also one of the 7 gastronomical wonders of Portugal, a competition that Portugal had to find its best dishes, so it’s worth looking out for it. The other 6 dishes that made the list are:
- Alheiras de Mirandela
- Queijo Serra da Estrela
- Caldo verde
- Sardinha assada
- Arroz de marisco
- Pastel de Belém (or pastel de nata)
Pastel de Tentúgal
Pastéis de Tentúgal are from Tentúgal, a small village that’s around 20 km from Coimbra, but they seem to be very common here. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of the most popular sweets in the region: the Pastel de Tentúgal was a finalist in the 7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia (7 Gastronomical Wonders).
They have a light and flaky pastry and a filling that, like most Portuguese conventual sweets, is made from sugar and eggs. The outside is dusted with powdered sugar.
Pastel de Santa Clara
The pastel de Santa Clara is actually one of my favourite Portuguese sweets, although the version that I have taken a photo of here is different to the ones you’ll see around Coimbra. Apparently they come in a number of different shapes and sizes, but you’re much more likely to see them in a half moon shape (kind of like an empanada).
The cakes are even more Coimbra-esque than the pastéis de Tentúgal: the full name is Pastéis de Sta. Clara do Convento de Coimbra. The addition of ground almonds (as opposed to just eggs and sugar) is what makes this one the winner for me.
Other regional cakes
As well as the Pastel de Tentúgal, look out for these other cakes which you’re likely to stumble upon in Coimbra.
- Arrufadas de Coimbra
- Barrigas de Freira