The other day, I was at a lunch with a number of other expats, several of whom could be fairly described as “foodies.”
One of them asked me my favourite Portuguese dish. She seemed a little disappointed with my response, perhaps because it wasn’t something very exciting.
I chose arroz de pato – Portuguese duck rice.
The usual place to find arroz de pato is in the small “hole-in-the-wall” style local takeaways that you find all over the Algarve.
There’s nothing remotely complicated about arroz de pato – it is simply rice, cooked up with shredded duck, a couple of chunks of chorizo and sometimes the odd lump of pork or bacon. The success of the dish is, I think, in the detail. The rice should be agulha (please correct me if I’m wrong), which seems to be somewhere between long-grain rice and the short Arborio rice used in risotto.
The rice is clearly cooked in a good, rich stock, and the flavour is enhanced by a good few drops of piri piri sauce.
It’s perfect, rustic comfort food and also, strangely, a suitable substitute when I might (in the UK) have grabbed a Chinese special fried rice.
I haven’t yet made an arroz de pato, even though some supermarkets have recently started selling pre-shredded duck along with a big sachet of duck stock. Continente have also recently begun to sell a ready-meal variation which is strangely agreeable (despite the unnecessary inclusion of carrots), though no substitute for the huge containers-full we buy at our local takeaway.
If you find yourself in Portugal and fancy a quick and easy lunch, keep an eye out for arroz de pato on the specials board. Splash on some piri piri, watch out for little bones (this is, after all, a rustic dish), and enjoy!
Arroz de pato was part of the very first meal we enjoyed on the day we began our new life in Portugal. You can read about our first years here in our new book: