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Why Are Petiscos the Perfect Meal in Portugal?:
The Portuguese language is replete with uniquely expressive and fun words. One that foodies will love is petiscar, meaning “to snack,” a term used when heading out with friends for drinks and snacks. In Portugal, these snacks are called petiscos and, similar to tapas in Spain, they offer an excellent way of trying multiple Portuguese flavors in one sitting.
Before ordering a drink and expecting a petisco to arrive, remember that petiscos, although similar in appearance, are not tapas and won’t be served for free the way tapas are in some Spanish cities. In Portugal, it is not customary for restaurants or bars to serve free snacks, and even the couverts (bread, cheese, butter, pâté) that are automatically brought to the table, even before orders have been placed, come with a charge—if you’re not interested in paying for them, simply say, “Não, obrigado” to the waiter and they should take them away.
Petiscos are smaller, shareable, plates of traditional dishes that are generally cheaper than entrées (or main courses) and are influenced by the region—for instance, petiscos in the Algarve will be different than those in Porto or Coimbra. Along the coast, petiscos are centered more around seafood (so it’s common to see steamed shellfish), while in the central and eastern regions meals are more influenced by the land (meaning a variety of cheeses and meats are common “snacks”). There are a few recipes, however, that are likely to appear on menus across the country.