The rich gastronomic heritage of Matosinhos is an eloquent testament to its long and intimate relationship with the sea. This coastal city in northern Portugal has a history interwoven with fishing, salt production, and the canning industry, establishing a culinary tradition that is as rich and vibrant as its culture.
Since Roman times, Matosinhos has been home to communities of fishermen, farmers, and salt workers, all profoundly influenced by the mighty Atlantic. The foundation of the city is strongly linked to the sea, its benefits and challenges.
With the construction of the Port of Leixões in 1884, the life of Matosinhos residents underwent significant transformations, both economically and socially. This change brought people from various places to Matosinhos, drawn by job opportunities at the port, in infrastructure construction, and fishers seeking greater protection for their activity. Over time, fishing methods and techniques evolved, notably with the emergence of large, motorized vessels and the introduction of American nets for fish capture.
This growth in fishing activity, along with the increase in makeshift factories during the Great War, led to the emergence of a new type of cannery near the Port of Leixões. This development had a multiplier effect in areas such as civil construction, metallurgy, carpentry, hospitality, trade, and catering. Thus, Matosinhos became known for its canning industry, counting in the early 20th century with 59 companies dedicated to this activity. The canning industry is still an iconic value in the city today, notable for the presence of large industrial units and the unique design of packaging.
The fishing community also gave rise to numerous dishes made with fish, the main component of their diets, since meat was a privilege served only at the tables of agricultural households. Thus, the inhabitants of Matosinhos took advantage of what the sea offered them: from sardines, mackerel to crustaceans and marine mollusks. The result is a collection of prodigiously prepared dishes with high-quality products, still sought after by visitors to Matosinhos today: grilled sardines, fish stew, monkfish rice, sea bass, grouper, sole, octopus, hake, seafood cataplana, among others.
This gastronomic heritage is an integral part of Matosinhos's cultural identity and serves as a tourist attraction in itself. Each dish is a mirror of the city's history, its ties to the sea, and its innovative spirit. It's a magnificent example of how gastronomy can contribute to the development of a territory, and as such, it is one of the fundamental elements for the application of Matosinhos as a UNESCO Creative City.
Through its gastronomic heritage, Matosinhos tells its story, shares its culture, and celebrates its connection with the ocean. The sustainability of this tradition is, therefore, an essential component of Matosinhos's commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The city recognizes the potential of gastronomy as a driving force for sustainable development, both in terms of strengthening the local economy through tourism, and also in terms of preserving and promoting its cultural heritage.
Matosinhos plays a crucial role in enhancing local seafood, fishing, and agriculture products, thus contributing to more sustainable food and reducing the environmental impact of the food industry. The city values its traditions, but also reinvents itself and adapts to the evolution of times, incorporating more sustainable production practices and supporting innovation in its gastronomic industry.
As a UNESCO Creative City, Matosinhos aims to share its experience and learnings with other cities, contributing to an exchange of knowledge and practices that can enrich each city's approach to culture and creativity. Through its rich gastronomy, Matosinhos has the opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion, transmitting its cultural heritage to future generations and to the world.
Matosinhos' gastronomic heritage is an inextricable part of its identity. It's a tribute to its history, a reflection of its creativity, and a testament to its resilience. The culinary delights of the city are evidence of its commitment to keeping its tradition alive, promoting its culture, and driving its sustainable development.