Rice, the inseparable friend

A daily staple, popular and almost omnipresent, rice is the usual complement of Portuguese dishes. The endless possibilities that it offers in the kitchen has always been made the most of on Lusitanian tables, becoming part of the country's culinary culture.

The versatile nature of rice, its amenability and capacity to absorb and soak up flavours and textures, means that the grain can appear on the ingredient list of a multitude of dishes as part of recipes from the north to the south of Portugal. From the humble ovens to the vanguard of gastronomy, Portuguese cuisine finds in rice the perfect match to enhance the role of the food that accompanies it, whether meat, fish, shellfish or vegetables.

Chickens, hens and roosters, widely used in rice stews, have their most characteristic example in 'arroz de cabidela' (rice made with chicken blood and giblets). Although very common throughout the country, these dishes are made mainly in the interior regions.

The famous and delicious arroz de pato (duck rice), originating from Braga, is at its best if made with wild duck. It usually accompanies other meats and is in turn accompanied by a variety of vegetables and pulses, seasoned with various herbs and spices. With the characteristic Portuguese enchidos (various pork sausages), a large number of rice dishes can also be made and worthy of mention is the celebrated 'Sarrabulho' rice, a typical, chunky dish that honours many tables in the Minho region. Also interesting is the use of turmeric, the natural colouring of some chouriços (spicy, smoked sausages) in northern Portugal, which gives the rice a very distinctive strong yellow colour, and brings to mind the flavours of the Portuguese colonies in the Far East, which have influenced Portuguese cuisine so much.

Some rice recipes appear, associated with cod, the huge star of Portuguese cuisine, without forgetting the numerous and abundant examples of fish and shellfish that in one way or another, are part of traditional dishes such as, octopus rice, or rice with shrimp, whiting, squid, lobster, percebes (goose barnacles), 'navalheira' (rock/bay) crab or clams. The thousand and one ways to cook rice in Portugal make the country one of the biggest consumers of rice in the European Union. The annual per capita consumption is around 15 kilos, totalling about 140,000 tons of rice per year. Rice is, in Portugal, the inseparable friend of the kitchen and its delicacies.