Bacalhau à Brás: Portugal's Ultimate Scrambled Eggs

No food culture has embraced cod in general — and salt cod in particular — the way Portugal has. The fish, also known as bacalhau, according to, is the country's national ingredient, and it's estimated the Portuguese consume more than 100 thousand metric tons of it — that's about 22 pounds per person a year!

Portugalist says this delicacy is not only consumed during special religious occasions from Christmas to Good Friday, but is part of an everyday diet. The Portuguese even say this type of cod can be baked, grilled, and fried in 365 different ways — one for each day of the year. says the country's love for and consumption of bacalhau goes back generations and began in the 14th century, when trade between England and Portugal was made up exclusively of salt and codfish. Before French and English settlers took over Canadian shores, Portuguese fishermen were seen venturing as far west as North America to fish what they began calling "Bacalhau da Terra Nova." But these ventures came to an end with the arrival of the French and English, who eventually took over the area from Portuguese fishermen, per Portugal Things.  

Salting was a way to preserve fish for long sea voyages

In order to ensure that the fish they caught wouldn't go bad, History Today says the English fishermen, who then had control over fertile fishing grounds, would first gut the cod, then pack the slices with plenty of salt in barrels. Once the salt drew a good percentage of the moisture in the cod, the fish would then be dried in the sun. Treating the cod this way ensured the fish stocks could make their way across the Atlantic and to European consumers without spoiling.

Refrigeration eventually obviated the need to salt cod to keep it from spoiling. Regardless, bacalhau continues to be enjoyed today, not just in Portugal, but also in Spain, where it is known as bacalao, and Italy, where it is called baccalà, per Philosokitchen

Some of the most popular ways to cook bacalhau in Portugal, include "bolinhos de bacalau" or meatballs made from bacalhau, bacalhau de nata — where the salt cod is cooked in cream sauce, and bacalhau à Brás— a breakfast-style bacalhau enjoyed by many.

Bacalhau à brás has a fairly long prep time

Bacalhau à brás, or bacalhau dourado, is a dish made with shredded cod, onions, and fried matchstick potato that's held together with beaten egg and topped with black olives, per 196 Flavors. The dish was first created by a Lisbon tavern owner named Brás, who originated the technique; the à Brás is also commonly used with ham, chicken, vegetables, as well as sardines.

While bacalhau à brás sounds easy enough to cook, preparing it will take at least a day, as the cod needs to be soaked to remove the excess salt. If you find yourself in possession of a piece of bacalhau, Philosokitchen recommends that you first cut and trim the cod before soaking it in a bowl of water, and that you replace the water every 8-10 hours. Once 24 hours have passed, boil a piece and taste it to see if it is still too salty; if it is, simply repeat the procedure. Once that is done, Food n Road says to poach the bacalhau for 15 minutes before using it in a recipe.