” You write about food ? You’ve come here just to eat ?? Seriously ?? That’s so cool! ” this is the first thing I hear when I reach Lisbon by the immigration officer about to stamp my passport. He’s so intrigued by what I do he took a pen and paper to write down my blog name till I gave him my card as well as his two supervisors in the cubicle behind him. They wish me we’ll and I think that’s possibly the best start to my trip. I start my trip in Estoril which is about 30 mins away from Lisbon and I’m by the beach in a lovely hotel on the 13th floor with a stunning view beneath me. There really is nothing like waking up to a scenic view of the sea, sail boats and the beach.
After spending a day getting over a wee bit of jet lag and then frolicking on the beach and stumbling across a fabulous little burger outlet I had my first authentic Portuguese meal. If you ever find your self in Estoril, then Boteco Da Linha is a great way to initiate your Portuguese food experience. This cafe is adorable, with it’s miss matched yet charming interiors, wooden chairs, beautiful Portuguese plates which I desperately wanted to take back home and its gorgeous old school flooring.
There are many authentic Portuguese dishes that I tried on my trip and will talk about in great detail in my next few posts but the best way to enjoy some of them, is by what they call ‘ Petiscos’ pronounced ( peteesh coush ) The Petiscos is very similar to the Spanish tapas in terms of small plates of food but nothing like tapas in terms of taste or the type of dishes served. It’s the best way to sample small bites of various dishes with a tall pitcher of house wine or sangria. Like most cultures, the Portuguese too enjoy their meals and are very proud of their simple but flavour packed cuisine. The is the most authentic way to dine and the best introduction to local food, dishes and produce. Let the tastings begin!
Every meal no matter what you’re eating starts with a basket of warm delicious bread, a bowl full of olives and a olive oil so dip the bread. I guess it’s all part of the Mediterranean diet, and like other Southern European countries, everything in Portugal is cooked with love and heaps of olive oil.
With it’s proximity to the coast, it’s obvious seafood plays a major role in their diet. There is ample fresh produce available and an incredible choice. Fresh clams cooked in olive oil served with two thick wedges of lime which is gently squeezed all over it, is a popular petiscos dish. Simple uncomplicated and bloody tasty.
Sausages are something you find everywhere in Portugal. It’s a pig lovers paradise and a joy to eat pork in all it’s forms. The have the blood sausage which is darker in colour almost black and please don’t let the name deter you, it’s quite tasty. They have chorizo, which is cooked sort of like a flambe, it’s lit on fire and cooked, it’s ridiculously easy to make and one of my absolute favourite things to eat. There is also the famous ‘ jewish sausage’ which is such an oxymoron because as I’m sure you’re well aware, Jews like Muslims do not eat pork. The story is that during the inquisition, the King of Portugal demanded that all the jews either leave the country or convert to Christianity. For those that converted not by choice but for the sake of their lives, and still secretly held onto their roots, not eating sausage is a dead giveaway. They started to make sausages which looked like regular sausages from the outside but were stuffed with game and chicken inside. I ended up tasting these sausages in a fried ball served with mustard to add a slight kick. Can’t really say no to meat that’s fried. It’s a great dish.
The cuisine has an abundance of seafood and various meats which leaves a very small appetite for vegetarian food. I have a feeling like most carnivorous folk their idea of vegetarianism is chicken or egg. There was only one strictly vegetarian dish I encountered at many places and it’s the tempura green bean. A lot of people don’t know and I thought it was a joke as well when I first heard, but the tempura is not a Japanese tradition but originally a Portuguese one. It is this exact dish, the tempura fried beans that has been replicated in Japan using various other ingredients and become a distinct part of their cuisine, something with the Portuguese locals are mighty proud about. If you get a portion of green beans where the tempura doesn’t over power and you can actually taste the ingredient it’s delicious. Specially in some places where it’s served with a sweet and spicy dip.
The other vegetarian dish was a pastry of sorts, almost like a puff stuffed with spinach and ricotta served with a sweet jam. I don’t know if this is a typical petiscos dish because I didn’t come across it again but the only other vegetarian thing I ate in all my 24 days there.
The next dish was sauteed mushrooms in olive oil and garlic but before you think oh wow another vegetarian dish, it came with chunks of beautiful sausage. I was not complaining. I wiped it clean, and moped up the last bits of glistening olive oil with my bread mind you. Delicious!
Dessert at this particular restaurant was not the typical Portuguese ones but classics like the most decadent strawberry cheese cake ( good cream cheese and a generous helping of it really makes all the difference ) a heady chocolate mousse which even I could appreciate ( I don’t like chocolate ) and a tiramisu that makes you realise you eat rubbish half the time.
The portions are small and the idea is so that you can try various things and take your time to enjoy your meal and conversation. It might seem like a little but it’s a lot. With one dinner I thought, well hey now, I know what peticos is, I know what the food on this trip is going to be like. Oh boy, I knew nothing. This was just a fraction of what they had in store. We hadn’t even had one sliver or slice of fish yet ! Hang on folks, this is the first of many more food stories 🙂
This trip was part of a 16 day food tour all over Portugal organised by APTECE – For all information about Portuguese cuisine, where to eat, what to eat, how to go about it, please check out their website.