Cataplana pan – a typical pan from the Algarve

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One of the delightful Portuguese dishes I enjoy tasting is Ameijoas na cataplana. Since our house is located near Sintra, it can sometimes be a challenge to find this dish in a local restaurant. The use of a cataplana pan is characteristic of the Algarve region, meaning that you mainly encounter dishes prepared with a cataplana in the southern part of Portugal.

Copper Cataplana

OOriginally, cataplanas were made of copper, and it’s logical that they have their origin in the Algarve region. In the past, the Algarve was known for its copper production and numerous copper smiths.

Cataplanas were traditionally handcrafted, but nowadays, you increasingly see factory-made versions. These are not made of copper but stainless steel. At home, we have both variants, but if you’re considering purchasing one, I recommend going for the copper cataplana. The aluminum cataplana tends to quickly stick, and it steams the food less effectively. Although a copper cataplana is more expensive, it is undoubtedly the best choice if you want to prepare the most delicious dishes.

Braising and steaming simultaneously

The cataplana is a large copper pan consisting of two deep, rounded lids connected by a hinge. The pan can be tightly closed, allowing the flavors and aromas of shellfish, vegetables, and meats to fully develop. The shape of the cataplana enables you to combine braising and steaming.

When the lid is closed, the pan reaches high temperatures, ensuring that fish, meat, and vegetables cook evenly, preserving all their flavors and aromas. The bottom of the pan without the lid can be used for sautéing ingredients like onions, garlic, and a bit of pepper.

Cataplana and Lisbon

There’s a good chance you’ll come across the cataplana pan in Lisbon as well. They are sold in most supermarkets and at A Vida Portuguesa While it’s not a specialty of Lisbon and its surroundings, you’ll find relatively few restaurants that cook with a cataplana. If you happen upon one with a cataplana on display, be sure to step inside and savor a dish from the cataplana. It’s truly delicious!

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