Food and drink, Lisbon
Portugal is not particulary famous for its beer. Nevertheless, pale lager beers seem to be quite popular. I gave Sagres and Superbock a try.
Sagres beer is brewed by the Central de Cervejas brewery in Vila Franca de Xira. Since 2008 the brewery is under control of a joint venture of the breweries Heinken and Carlsberg.
Superbock beer is the most popular beer in Portugal and also well known in other countries of the world. It is brewed by the Unicer brewery, which is located in Leca do Balio in the north of Portugal.
The greatest pastry of Lisbon...You will find it in every Bakery in Lisbon but the ones from the antiga Confeitaria de Belem (see corresponding restaurant tip) are the most famous and delicious ones!!!! Don't hesitate to go to Belem for it, you won't regret it!!!!
I was really glad to hear that there was a portuguese bakery in Brussels (Schaerbeek) and to taste the brussels pastéis that my friend offered me!
In the Rossio area of Lisbon there is a unique drink called Ginjinha which can only be bought in a handful of bars. In fact although they are called bars they are little more than a doorway with an opening through which you can buy a shot of Ginjinha, similar to cherry brandy. It is less than a Euro a shot and quite potent, so be warned. Don't try to keep up with the locals, who knock it back like it's water. But it makes a nice little aperatif, and my wife was buzzing after it which made it a very cheap night out.
Local traditions are fading, but some still have their followers.
Ginginha is one of them: two tiny shops were the landmark of this cherry liquor, that, of course, you may buy everywhere, including shops and supermarkets. But the tradition was to stop, ask for a Ginginha at the counter, and drink it outside, watching the passing people.
Portuguese sanitary authorities forced the closing of the small stalls that traditionalists would like to reopen. Meanwhile, Largo de S. Domingos keeps being a talking area, only without the glass in people’s hands. Till when?
One of the typical foods in Portugal and very popular in the area of Lisbon are snails. Snails have a season and are normally eaten in a specific time of the year (June-August) when they are in their best shape to be tasted. Portuguese people sit in an esplanade with a beer, preferably after a day at the beach, and just relax snacking snails.
The snails are normally in nets at the door of the restaurants and are stewed with some spices. Snails are healthy, with a low calorie and fat and a high protein level. Produced in farms or caught in the nature they are actually molluscs like clams or squids. The snails eaten in Portugal are quite small and have nothing to do with the french escargot. The portuguese snails are small ones and are sucked directly from the shells.
Portugal eats 4.000 tons each year. In Lisbon, the area of Alcantara is probably one of the places with more concentration of places dedicated to the snailsmania but they can be eaten everywhere.
Snails are a tradition in many cultures and are eaten worldwide for thousands of year. Now it is up to youto try it or not...
For those of y'all in Roxboro, it's kale (or collard green) soup. On the two occasions (1990 and 1993) I visited José and his family in the suburb of Alhos Vedros, his mama thought I was was too skinny. Her mission was to fatten me up. I wonder if she would like me the way I am now. Among many things she fed me was sopa de couve. Growing up eating collard greens, this wasn't too foreign a concept. The only difference is, if we made collard green soup, we would probably season it with fatback instead of cutting chorizo into it. This is what I call real Portuguese comfort food. Here's the recipe:
1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced fine
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 quarts cold water
6 oz chorizo, pepperoni, or other dry, garlicky sausage (folks, make it authentic: you can get chorizo at most Wal-Marts), sliced thin
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. kale (or collards, turnip greens) washed, trimmed of coarse stems and
veins, then sliced in a chiffonade
Saute the onion and garlic in 3 tbs of oil in a large, heavy saucepan 2 to 3 minutes over moderate heat until they begin to colour and turn glassy; do not brown or they will turn bitter. Add the potatoes and saute, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes, until they begin to color also. Add the water, cover, and boil gently over moderate heat 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are mushy. Meanwhile, fry the sausage in a medium heavy skillet over low heat 10-12 minutes until most of the fat has cooked out; drain well and reserve.
Another yummy thing I tasted in Portugal: queijo fresco or fresh cheese. This is cheese made of cow or goat milk in a way that it must be consumed right away or the day after (if made the traditional way). Nowadays you can find some that have a slightly longer expiration date.
Consistensy wise, this cheese resembles cottage cheese but more solid. The usual way of eating this cheese is slicing it and adding salt and pepper.
During my visits to Lisbon in March and December 2011, I joined the locals outside the Ginjinha bars most days to indulge in a shot of Lisbon's famous cherry liqueur.
There were two Ginjinha bars that I tended to frequent; "A Ginjinha" and "Ginjinha Sem Rival Eduardino". They are located a mere 100 metres apart on the edge of Rossio Square.
These small bars share many similarities. They are both tiny, hole-in-the-wall places that sell shots of Ginjinha to a steady flow of customers day and night. Queues form outside both places and neither place is big enough to accommodate more than 3 or 4 customers inside at a time.
Both charge 1.20 Euros for a shot of Ginjinha and offer the chance to have it "with or without fruits". If you opt to have it "with fruits", you will get two or three cherries in your shot glass along with the alcohol. The cherries soak up the liqueur and make for a very nice finale to the drink!
Crowds gather outside each bar to enjoy their drinks and boxes are provided to dispose of used glasses and discarded cherry stones.
There is generally a jovial atmosphere outside the bars, but I did find that they tended to attract a few unsavoury characters as well. I was approached by beggars on a few occasions while enjoying my Ginjinha and did notice a few drunks outside the bars late in the evenings. I always felt safe enough though.
I enjoyed the Ginjinha so much that I purchased a bottle to bring home with me.
Be sure to visit the Ginjinha bars around Rossio Square for a shot of cherry liqueur!
I've never seen a wine list with so much different portwines. In a stylish ambiance you can enjoy a perfect glass of port, in a variety from cheap till very expensive.
I enjoyed a glass of Vintage port for 6 euros.
You can also buy bottles for home here.
Adress: Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara 45
Open mo-sa from 11.00 till 24.00
Lisbon, and all of Portugal really, are perfect if you love seafood. Fresh fish is on just about every menu and is particularly good, as you would expect, as you get closer to the ocean.
This photo was taken in the Mercado da Ribeira, which is full of various crafts, foods and flowers.
I was introduced to pasteis de nata, or custard tarts, during the Euromeet 2009 in Cascais. I thought they were delicious and right up my alley: soft and a little crunchy at the same time, with cream and not too sweet. Then I saw them in Beijing at a bakery and at KFC and revisiting Lisbon I had to have them once more :)
The most famous are the pasteis made in Casa Pasteis de Belem, where they're made for selling and for eating on the premises.
When we had VT meeting in Cascais I wanted to try typical Portuguese food. Teresa (tere1) recomended Bacalhau à brás and she was right - the dish was fantastic,only the portion was too big..))))
Bacalhau à brás is codfish with eggs and potatoes.
Here is the recipe:
Bacalhau à Brás
250-300g of bacalhau (dried codfish)
500g of potatoes, julienned into matchstick-like pieces
2 onions, finely chopped
large quantities of canola or corn oil for frying
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
0.5dl chopped parsley
Soak the codfish for 24 h, changing the water 3-5 times to get rid of excess salt. When the fish has softened, check for bones and cut into pieces with kitchen scissors.
Peel and cut the potatoes into long, thick matchsticks. Rinse several times until the water remains clear; drain in a colander. Heat the oil in a large skillet, fry the potatoes till golden. (I use oils more suitable for heavy-duty frying and less expensive than high-grade olive oil for this purpose and enhance the taste of the dish by using good oil later in the process). Transfer the potatoes on a plate lined with kitchen towels to absorb excess fat. Next, fry the chopped onions in the oil until lightly browned. Put aside, and stir-fry the cod in the remaining oil.
Heat a little olive oil in a thick-bottomed kettle. Infuse the quartered garlic clove until golden, then remove. Add half of the potatoes and all of onions and bacalhau. Lightly beat 6 eggs in a bowl, season with freshly ground black pepper, then add this mixture into the kettle. Stir gently over a low heat, not unlike scrambling eggs: when the eggs are firm, take away from heat; add the chopped parsley. Just before serving, add the remaining fried potatoes to maintain their fried crispness. Decorate with black olives if desired and serve immediately with good crusty Portuguese bread and wine.
An oddity is that at every restaurant you will be presented with some appetizers, usually just bread, but alsocheese, olives, meat etc. It's fine if you choose to eat them, but don't expect them to be free, becasue they are not. No matter what establishment you go to, these will be charged to you based on what you eat. The easiest way to avoid any charge (sometimes listed on the bill as 'couvert' or cover charge) is to send them back as soon as they arrive. Though sometimes you may decide you want to eat them (as I did once with some cheese) and the price is usually pretty low.
While a well-respected wine nation, Portugal is often best known for its port. But, there are other famous drinks being sipped by Portuguese in Lisbon including Ginjinha, a vibrant cherry liqueur. Head to the nocturnal suburb of Bairo Alto after 10pm to see the bars open and choose your spot for a glass.
Altough the most famous portuguese Ginjinha is from Óbidos, in Lisbon you can taste various origins of it.
The oldest place and most famous to try it is at "Largo de São Domingos", a tiny hole in the wall.
Just off of Rossio, we were walking by this little hole in the wall counter and wondered what the heck all the fuss was about. When I walked a little closer to try to figure it out, the guy in this picture motioned for me to come over. He offered me a shot of this mysterious drink known as ginginha. Since he was drinking it, I figured it had to be safe and accepted his generous offer.
When I took the shot, I immediately noticed it's lovely slightly purple, cherry color and its sweet smell. A sip confirmed that it was something similar to a cherry liqueur and I later found out that it's made of the ginja fruit, which is in fact very close to the cherry. The shot is served with a piece of the fruit in the bottom of the glass.
You can find ginginha stands all around Portugal and you can buy a bottle in stores everywhere. I brought a bottle home that I'm saving for the first Portuguese VTer who comes to visit me in the USA!!