For me discovering a country includes trying out as much of traditional food as I can. Traditional drinks included of course. And Madeira is in this sense definitely a great destination, it offers a lot of tasty local food which firstly originated from Portugal. Everything I ate here was absolutely delicious and I thought I will share with you some of the best typical tastes of Madeira! But be careful, don’t read this if you are hungry.
Espetada & milho frito
Grilled beef cubes, rolled in garlic and salt, then put onto skewers with bay leaves before cooked over hot coals or wood chips. Yummy! Espetada can also be made from other types of meat. It is typically served with the side dish milho frito, which are cubes of fried polenta made with kale or collard greens.
Carne de Vinho e Alhos
Pork or rabbit meat marinated in white wine and garlic. They usually eat it for Christmas, but is available all year around in restaurant for us to try it. In Madeira they also add a bit of salad on every plate and you make it with their tasty vinegar made from white wine. And you can maybe have some delicious coffee for dessert. Here the coffee has interesting names as garota, bica, chinesa and cortadinho. But the waiters will know what to bring you if you describe what kind of coffee do you want.
Bolo do caco
Delicious circular flat bread, usually served with garlic butter, but also made with sausages, ham, cheese etc. In restaurants they serve it as an appetizer, but you can buy it on the street and it’s great as a snack or a dinner. It also goes good with wine.
Scabbardfish with passion fruit sauce
This interesting mix of taste will blow your mind. Tasty scabbardfish, also known as espada, and a soar taste of the sauce made from passion fruit – really an interesting combination. They also have a version where they add fried bananas to this dish. What I also liked with food in Madeira was their side dishes. They were always very diverse and tasteful.
If you like octopus, then this is the place to eat it. They make a delicious grilled octopus for a reasonable price. And one more thing about eating in Madeira, usually the views from the terraces of the restaurants are amazing. It just adds to overall amazing dining experiences.
If you can’t find your favourite fish on a menu in restaurants or you prefer to make it yourself, the best place to get it is at the farmers’ market Mercado dos Lavadores in Funchal. There you have a nice offer of fresh fish from the Atlantic Ocean.
Pastel de nata
This egg tart pastry is more known as a typical Portuguese dish, but you can get it everywhere on Madeira and it is absolutely delicious. You can have it for breakfast or dessert and for me the best ones where at A Confeitaria no. Mercado in Funchal. I also loved the design of the place and everything else they served there, especially their brunch option.
Ok I know, ice cream is not a typical dessert from Madeira. But it is something one must eat when at the seaside. I found this really delicious ice cream place just on the waterfront near Marina Funchal which I just had to share with you. They give you giant scoops of ice cream.
Madeira is a tropical island for sure, especially when you are looking at all the fruit that grows here. Some of it I already knew like mango, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, guava, but there are others I didn’t even know their names. Have you ever heard of arboreal tomato, custard apple, split leaf philodendron, anona, paw paw or quince? They also grow special small bananas in Madeira. The best place to check all out all the fruit is at the Mercado dos Lavadores. If the prices are high, just remember the name of the fruit and buy it in some other local store.
Fresh fruit juice
All the above mentioned tropical fruit can be made into delicious fresh juice. I tried the passion fruit juice and juice from freshly squeezed strawberries. It’s kind of amazing! And who would know, while drinking fresh juice, fresh fruit also goes great with it!
Madeira wine is made from grapes of bual, malmsey, sercial, terrantez, verdelho and tinta negra. Every bottle has from 18 to 22 % of alcohol and this wine is usually served as a dessert or an appetizer. You can get from dry to sweet wine, with prevalent aromas of burnt caramel, walnut oil, peach, hazelnut and orange peel. You can read more about the Madeira wine making process and history in my “Getting to know Madeira wine at Blandy’s Wine Lodge” blog post.
This the most typical alcoholic drink from Madeira is made from sugar cane aguardente, lemon and honey and it comes with many different flavours. I have tried the passion fruit, but you can choose orange, tangerine, tomato, whiskey etc. They stir it with caralhinho, typical stick for stiring from Madeira. They say poncha is a cure for flus and colds. I say it’s great for warming up when walking in the mountains.