What is a Cataplana?


Since moving to Portugal one of my favorite meals, when we eat out, is a fish stew (Caldeirada) but the type which is cooked and served in a copper dish called a Cataplana. As you can see from my photograph the dish has two hinged clam-like shells which are clamped tightly together during cooking. Researching the origin of the dish Wikipedia states the Cataplana was invented by Armando Luz (1927-2002), however other sources such as www.lecreuset.co.uk and www.recipes4us.co.uk informs us the Cataplana was first introduced to the Algarve by the Moors in the 8th Century, during their occupation. Help I’m confused!

Usually, when I see Cataplana de Peixe on the menu it’s for two people so I was delighted to discover the Don Sebastian restaurant in Lagos served single portions! Mr. Piglet is not keen on fish stew and even less so since eating Caldeirada which contained fish lips; the type of fish that looks like its lips have undergone a Botox operation. It made us laugh because the lips were not attached to anything and just yawned at him when he spooned some of the stew onto his plate. Then when he discovered some white hard round things which our friend informed him were the fishes eye balls, Mr. Piglet nearly evaporated on the spot!


Cataplana recipes
Trawling through recipes on Google and YouTube ingredients can include anything from pork and clams to fish and seafood etc.
Recipe and Video for Cataplana in English from http://how2heroes.com



30 thoughts on “What is a Cataplana?

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  1. I love Cataplana! Actually I have two Cataplana in my household. My mom is Portuguese, my Dad Italian, and I live now in the U.S., but I am very proud to maintain the tradition. I really enjoy reading your blog, bringing lots of memories of my grandparents and my summers and Christmas vacations in Lisboa…muita saudade!


    1. OlΓ‘ Linda πŸ™‚ and welcome. I think I will be saving for a Cataplana. Not only are they a great cooking dish but they make the food look interesting when you bring the dish to the table.


  2. Well, we live and learn. Wait ’til I mesmerise the Missus with my knowledge of what a Cataplana is.
    And, as it happens, we had baccalau-a-la-Celetse for dinner tonight. πŸ™‚


  3. I love fish cataplana too! I was also under the impression it was a “moorish” tradition. I have a South African friend married to a Portuguese, who lives here in Perth, and she has one of those hinged pans and invites us when she cooks Cataplana.


    1. Hi Sami, there are so many variations I had great fun watching the videos and looking for recipes. I like the recipe with the Lisbon sauce best! I’d love to cook this, but I’d be wasting my time. Mr P is really not keen. Have you not been tempted to take a Cataplana dish back with you?


  4. Interesting varitions on a theme! Nice regional dish for which others, I am certain, can be substituted πŸ™‚ ! Your video easy enough to follow and much fun – but methinks the slow pace of Portugal is visible – Have filed it for a quieter time . . . πŸ˜€ ! Thanks heaps!!!!!!


  5. Love this blog and I may try and adapt the Cataplana using my Tagine and some of our local fish. Of course it wont be the same but then thats what local food is all about isn’t it?


    1. Hi Jo, thanks for the kind comment πŸ™‚

      I think the principle is the same – was it the moors who also used Tagine’s?. The food is steamed. I’d love to buy one but they are very expensive and since researching I reckon I could use my wok and I’ve got a domed lid I could use with it. Life is all about compromise.


  6. You sure have a curious adventurous spirit for food. I’m glad you’re enjoying learning and tasting foods from so many regions. That’s pretty neat. πŸ™‚


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