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Exploring Jewish Portugal through the Community’s Culinary Traditions

Posted by Lauren Yagoda on Jan 14, 2015 3:41:29 AM

Jewish residents of various backgrounds embrace different cooking methods and use different ingredients while remaining true to the roots and rules of traditional Jewish cuisine. This is true of Portugal’s Jewish community, who are part of a larger group called the Sephardic Jews.  This group is from the Iberian Peninsula, which includes Portugal and other areas, like North Africa.  The culinary traditions of the people of  Jewish Portugal vary, depending on location within the area- though no matter where you go the food is supurb!


, via flickr


Foods Popular of Jewish People from Portugal

  • Sephardic Style Meatballs or Albondigas Although “albondigas” is Spanish for meatball, the term is also used to describe one or more versions of Sephardic style matzo meatballs- which hare typically served as part of a Passover meal. These can also be made with ground beef or lamb.
  • Berenjena con Miel: This dish starts with slices of eggplant, which are fried, then drizzled with honey and salt, and served hot.
  • Garbanzo rinconcillo:  This chickpea and spinach stew is a satisfying meal popular in both fine dining restaurants and with Sephardic Jewish cooks in their own homes, especially in Portugal.
  • For dessert, Sephardic cooks whip up egipico, a tart of dates and walnuts, or natillas de arroz con leche, a rice pudding flavored with rose, cinnamon and rosemary.
  • Almond macaroons:  This is another sweet treat that is popular during Passover. This cookie is made with almond meal, egg whites, salt, vanilla and powdered sugar. Compared to other desserts, these come together quickly – from start to finish, they take just half an hour to make.
  • Sambusak: This pastry filled with chickpeas, onions and spices has a long tradition as part of the Sabbath meal. Some say sambusak became part of the Sabbath meal in the 1200s.

Important Elements of Sephardic Jewish Cuisine

The culinary traditions of the Sephardic Jewish community emphasize consumption of stuffed cinnamon sticksvegetables, salads, lamb, ground beef, nuts and chickpeas. Spices are important as well. Popular spices in Portuguese dishes with Jewish roots include cumin, fresh cilantro, turmeric, parsley and cinnamon. Saffron, a spice of Spanish origin, is used in many dishes and Sephardic Jews in Portugal use cinnamon to flavor their coffees and ground meat dishes, mint in salads and teas.

Meals Created For and Served During Holidays

For Shabbat, Sephardic Jews in Portugal have created recipes for dishes like chamin, which is cooked over low heat, simmered overnight. Bourikas made of phyllo dough and filled with cheese, meats or vegetables are a breakfast meal served during the Sabbath.pomegranate-11872_640

During Rosh Hashanah, Sephardic Jews eat apples, dates, pomegranates, pumpkin pastries, leek fritters and dishes made of beets. A fish course is common too.

For Hanukkah, sweet cheese pancakes called cassola, spinach patties called keftes de espinaca and fried pastry frills are popular.

The professionals at Gil Travel can create an itinerary that allows you to immerse yourself in the cuisines of the Jewish communities in Portugal. We can help you to design a trip you’ll never forget and experiences you’ll forever tie to the foods you discovered there.

Topics: guest posting & travel experience, Israel Travel, Jewish Heritage