So, you arrived in Madeira and can’t wait to try the local food. Everybody will tell you about Espetada (cubes of beef grilled on laurel sticks) and Scabbard-fish. Well, go ahead and try them, then write them on the bucket list and move on to a new Madeira gastronomical experience. We are not saying, “espetada” and the scabbard-fish are bad, on the contrary, they are absolute staple delicacies you can’t afford to miss but if you want a unique and truly madeiran gastronomical experience don’t limit yourself to the usual recommendations and instead discover Madeiras secret menu. In general, in almost any restaurant on the island, you will be served “bolo do caco” (traditional flat bread with garlic butter) as you wait for your meal. The true madeiran lunch/dinner experience does not rely on the three-course meal formula that you will find in almost every touristic menu. Get away from those; you can get more value for your money ordering ‘a la carte’.
In almost every “by the sea” restaurant you can order portions of various gastronomic specialties, here are some you must try:
Limpets are a shellfish variety that lives only in clear sea waters on the rocks. You can eat them alive straight from the sea but, for all you sensible people who might think that’s cruel we grill them first in a very hot pan, with butter, garlic and finish them with a touch of fresh lemon to highlight the flavour. As we said, you can find them anywhere on the island but we recommend Caniçal, on the east part of the island, and Porto Moniz and Seixal, on the north shore, for extra freshness.
Gata Câmara de Lobos Codfish — As you arrive in Câmara de Lobos you will see a traditional boat with, what seems to be codfish drying in the sun, that’s “Gata”, the codfish of Câmara de Lobos, and is actually a deep sea shark. Grab a picture for posterity, the European Union has forbidden its capture. The fun part? Fisherman don’t capture “gata” on purpose it’s just a delicious byproduct of the black scabbard fish capture. So sit in one of the esplanades by the boats in Câmara the Lobos, ask for a beer or poncha and feel like an international gourmand, as you taste the free sample of this prohibited delicacy that they will offer along with your drink. You can order portions too. Try it fresh, dried, ceviche style and in many more ways while you can!
Gaiado stripped tuna — Gaiado is a small tuna served dry or fresh, ceviche style. When dried it has a dark brown colour. Traditional in Caniçal, dried “Gaiado” was a staple food for local fishermen as they went to sea for several month during tuna season. Very salty! Caramujos (Periwinkle) It’s a sea snail, but don’t say “No way!” right away! This is not your typical escargot. They are small and packed with sea flavour. Grab a needle or a pin and tuck them out of their shells. This specialty goes along really nicely with sun, a good conversation and a cold beer. Find them all around the island but for the ultimate freshness go to Jardim do Mar (literally Garden of the Sea) or Paúl do Mar on the southwest of the island or, once again, Caniçal. Pota (Giant Squid) Pota is a kind of squid in XL size. Typically from Câmara de Lobos, you can order it stewed, in ceviche or dried with or without piri-piri. A pota sandwich is a must in Câmara de Lobos.