Bacalhau means codfish in Portuguese, but the word almost always refers to salt cod and the dishes made from it, as fresh cod is rarely consumed in Portugal.


"Bacalhau" dishes are common in Portugal and Galicia in the north of Spain and to a lesser extent in its former colonies like Angola, Macau and Brazil. It is considered a delicacy and is also eaten on special occasions like Christmas Eve and Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. A related dish made from it is "bolinhos de bacalhau" or "pastéis de bacalhau". These deep-fried balls contain less expensive parts of the clipfish mixed together with potatoes, eggs and parsley, in the same vein as fishcakes.

Main ingredient

The essential ingredient, salted dried codfish, usually comes from Norway ("Bacalhau da Noruega") or Newfoundland ("Bacalhau da Terra Nova"). It used to be very affordable, but with the collapse of the cod stocks and dismantling of Portuguese "bacalhoeiro" fleet, it became more expensive, especially near Christmas time.

History of "bacalhau" dishes

Salt cod has been produced for at least 500 years, since the time of the European discoveries. Before refrigeration, there was a need to preserve the codfish; drying and salting are ancient techniques to keep many nutrients and the process makes the codfish tastier.

The Portuguese tried to use this method of drying and salting several fishes from their waters, but the ideal fish came from much further north. With the "discovery" of Newfoundland in 1497, they started fishing its cod-rich Grand Banks. Thus, " _pt. bacalhau" became a staple of the Portuguese cuisine, nicknamed " _pt. Fiel amigo" (faithful friend). From the 18th century the town of Kristiansund in Norway became an important place of producing bacalao or klippfish.

One of the reasons for this popularity in Portugal and other Catholic countries, was because of the many days (Fridays, Lent, and other festivals) on which the Church forbade the eating of meat. " _pt. Bacalhau" dishes were eaten instead.Dubious|date=March 2008

"Bacalhau" dishes

There are numerous "bacalhau" recipe variations, depending on region and tradition. It is said there are more than 365 ways to cook "bacalhau", one for every day of the year; others say there are 1001 ways. But it is the main "bacalhau" recipes that are the most notable, and these have even gained fame in Southeast Asia. Many Asian tourists head to Macau just to eat "bacalhau", an area where fresh seafood is also very popular.

Bacalhau is often served with potatoes. Green (Vinho Verde) or mature wines (Alentejo Wine, Dão Wine or Douro Wine) are served alongside.

Some Bacalhau dishes:
*Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá(some varieties: Original, Porto)
*Bacalhau à Brás
*Bacalhau da Consoada (some varieties: Minhota and Beirã), Eaten in Christmas Eve.
**In Christmas Lunch, there is the "Farrapo Velho" or "Roupa Velha" which is made upon the leftovers of Bacalhau da Consoada and after the spirits have "eaten" their share afternight.
*Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo
*Bacalhau à Zé do Telhado
*Bacalhau Espiritual
*Bacalhau Gratinado
*Bacalhau com Migas e Broa
*Bacalhau no Forno (some varieties: Algarve, Beiras, Antiga, Queijo, Salsa e Louro)
*Bacalhau-Lagosta (Lobster Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Natas (Cream Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau ao Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Cerveja (Beer Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Queijo (Cheese Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Leite (Milk Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Alhos e Pimentão (Garllic and Pepper Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Pimento e Chouriço (Pepper and Sausage Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Tomate (Tomato Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Piri-piri (Piri-piri is a very hot chilli pepper used in Portuguese and Lusophone-African cuisine)
*Bacalhau com Molho de Ervas Picadas (Herbs Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Molho de Azeite (Olive Oil Sauce Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Molho de Camarão (Shrimp Sauce Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Molho de Caril (Curry Sauce Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Molho de Tomate (Tomato Sauce Bacalhau)
*Bacalhau com Molho Picante (Spicy Sauce Bacalhau)

Some Regional Bacalhau dishes include:
*Bacalhau à Minhota (Minho region)
*Bacalhau Recheado à Narcisa (Minho region)
*Bacalhau à Lagareiro (Minho region)
*Bacalhau à Margarida da Praça (Minho region)
*Bacalhau à Novainho (Minho region)
*Bacalhau à São Lourenço da Montaria (Minho region)
*Bacalhau Assado na Brasa (Minho region)
*Bacalhau com Salpicão e Pão de Milho (Minho region)
*Bacalhau de Tiborna (Beiras)
*Bacalhau à Moda de Caminha
*Bacalhau à Moda de Viana do Castelo
*Bacalhau à Moda do Porto
*Bacalhau à Moda do Douro
*Bacalhau Frito (Beiras)
*Bacalhau Frito à Açoriana (Azores)
*Bacalhau Podre (literally, "Rotten Bacalhau", Trás-os-Montes)
*Bacalhau à Romeu (Trás-os-Montes)
*Bacalhau à Moda de Ervedosa (Beira Alta)
*Bacalhau à Assis (Beira Baixa)
*Bacalhau à Madre Paula (Estremadura)
*Bacalhau à Lisbonense (Lisbon)
*Bacalhau à Algarvia (Algarve)
*Bacalhau que Nunca Chega (Alentejo)
*Poejada de Bacalhau (Alentejo)
*Arroz de Bacalhau no Forno (Alentejo)

Besides the dishes listed above, there are the "Bolinhos de Bacalhau" (name in the North of Portugal and in Brazil) or "Pastéis de Bacalhau" (name in the South): literally "Codfish cakes", made up of potatoes, eggs, parsley, and some minor ingredients with dry salted codfish. The Bolinhos or Pastéis de Bacalhau are fried and served cold before meals. Another similar delicacies are the "Pataniscas de Bacalhau" and the "Iscas de Bacalhau", which are often only serverd in traditional "Tavernas" (taberns) in Northern Portugal and often preferred by older people.

"Bolinhos de bacalhau" in Brazil are usually served in bars as an appetizer consumed with beer.

ee also

* Portuguese cuisine
* Baccalà


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