We All Love to Eat

Portuguese Foods Go Around the World

Portuguese explorers, missionaries, settlers -- and even royalty -- introduced Portuguese food and wine in countries spanning the globe.

Years:  1543 — 1878

Tempura to Japan

Tempura, the crispy fried seafood and vegetables so popular in Japan–and in Japanese restaurants here–is of Portuguese origin. In the 16th century, Portuguese merchants and missionaries introduced a batter based on flour and eggs, making a light and crispy coating instead of an earlier Japanese batter that yielded a heavy not-so-delicious coating. The name may be derived from the Latin "quator tempora" referring to Catholic days of fasting (Lent, Fridays, Holy Days) when seafood and vegetables were eaten. It is also possible that the name came from the Portuguese word "tempero", meaning seasoning of any kind.

Egg tarts to China

The egg custard tart now popular throughout China came from Portugal through its colony, Macau. The story of this sweet treat is an interesting surprise. Long, long ago it was the duty of Catholic nuns to take care of the religious vestments of the priests. To make the vestments smooth and shiny (before more modern forms of starch), they used egg whites. To use so many leftover egg yolks, they created the custard tart! Just as different cooks can have different results, there can be subtle differences in different places, the most noticeable being the type of crust. In the Azores they are called "queijadas" and can have a variety of flavors–vanilla, lemon, chocolate–as well as a thinner crust. They are available at both Portuguese and Chinese bakeries in California.

High Tea to England

The British are well-known for their tradition of high tea, the late afternoon small meal of tea, petite sandwiches, and little desserts. But it was the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza who introduced the tradition. When she married England’s King Charles II in 1662, her influence made tea more popular among the wealthier classes of society, as whatever the royals did, everyone else wanted to copy. Soon, the popularity of tea spread across England. Tea became the beverage of choice, replacing ale as the national drink.

Sweet Bread to Hawaii

Americans are familiar with "King’s Hawaiian Bread” found in every supermarket. That bread is really Portuguese sweet bread that the Hawaiians adopted as their own after the Portuguese settled in Hawaii as sugar plantation laborers (1878-1910). The popular Hawaiian doughnuts, "malassadas", were also introduced by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira. They are round, deep-fried doughnuts rolled in sugar, customarily eaten before Lent.  Bakeries in Hawaii make malassadas year-round due to their popularity.  Experimentation over the years has resulted in new flavors and even malassadas filled with custard or jelly.

Vindaloo to Goa

A highly-spiced curry sauce, it is a basic element used with pork, chicken and lamb.  It's derived from the popular Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos” (meat marinated in wine, vinegar and garlic) that was introduced to Goa on the west coast of India by Portuguese explorers in the 1500s. “Vinho e alho” – “vind’alho” – vindaloo.

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