April 29, 2011

Portuguese Food ... In Portugal

Hi there, did you miss me last week? I really have to apologize for my absence on the last days … I didn’t cook last week because I was too busy eating Portuguese food in Portugal! Yes, we just came back from a 7 days gastronomic marathon in Lisbon and nearby cities! Maria and I went to Lisbon on the Easter break to meet with my parents and had a fantastic time. As a bonus, I also managed to meet with two good friends that used to live in Hong Kong a while ago.

So, today I will not share a recipe with you but my impressions of Lisbon and the amazing food you can find everywhere in the city. And I am being very honest with you, it is everywhere. I lost the count of how many coffee breaks we had (three or four per day?) or how many cod fish cakes my Dad ate … I can only guarantee there were way too many.

Portuguese cuisine is very rich and diverse. Spices were brought from the several colonies during the discoveries time and their presence is easily noted in several dishes. The proximity with the sea also makes Portugal a sea food paradise with several fonts claiming that Portugal is the European country with the highest consumption of fish per capita.
We could experience all these characteristics in every corner and I was particularly impressed with the variety of pastries and bakeries all over the city. At certain point my Dad and I decided to rate the quality of the cod fish cakes and choose the best one in the city. Of course this was a very naïve decision since it is just impossible to try them all in 7 days. I can’t even guess how many days we would need for that.
Anyway, we loved the one at the “Pastelaria Suica” in the Rossio Square and after a week the waiter was becoming a good friend of us.

Another winner, and I am sure I am not the only one to say this, were the “Pasteis de Nata”, or Portuguese egg tarts, as they are called in Macau. They are simply amazing, a mixture of egg custard with filo pastry, sugar and cinnamon, all warm and melting in your mouth. Yummmm! Since I already enjoyed them very much in Macau I couldn’t wait to try the real ones in Lisbon. The place: “The Antiga Pastelaria de Belem” founded in 1837 and a real treasure in the city. I went there in the very first day expecting the long traditional queue and a packed chaotic place. To my surprise we were on our table in 10 minutes from ordering. This is what we ordered: Pasteis de Natas, Rissois de Gambas, Pasteis de Bacalhau e Massa Tenra (Egg Tarts, Shrimp Pies, Cod Fish Cakes and Beef Pie.

I guess the pictures say it all … delicious! If you ever go there don’t be scared by the queue (if you find one). The place is big enough with several rooms full of tables and you can just go in, find a seat and order on your table. Very worth the visit.

Of course we also had cod fish, the national dish. It is said that in Portugal there are so many recipes with cod fish that you could eat a different one every day of the year. We had baked cod fish with potatoes in a small restaurant in Sintra and it was perfectly cooked for a rainy cold day.

We also tried the famous shrimp with garlic but as the main dish with rice. One of my friends suggested this small restaurant called “Cantinho da Amizade” for our get together and we were impressed by the portion sizes … huge. For this one our opinions diverged a bit but overall we found worth the visit specially if you want to order Portuguese home food. To be fair it was very late when we got to the restaurant and we were all a bit tired already.

We had plenty of beef since meat is everywhere in the menus with a very fair price and fantastic quality. For this I didn’t take pictures because there is nothing new about a good steak and a big portion of fries. We were lucky to have a very nice restaurant (Hippopotamus) at hour hotel serving all types of beef steaks cooked to perfection. A bit more expensive than the overall meals, but worth the experience and the convenience of just going downstairs after a day walking around the city.

Ah, and I have to confess that we also had Brazilian food in Portugal. Brazilian barbecue in Cascais to be more especific. I was amazed that there were so many Brazilian restaurants in Lisbon and nearby cities. I also found several products from my lovely country in the local supermarkets going from spices to drinks, yogurts, biscuits and chocolates. A paradise for someone that went to Brazil last time in July 2010! I guess this is why I had some extra weight in my luggage when i came back to Hong Kong!
Pictures for your delightment ….

So, in conclusion, we loved our trip, had a great family time and great food. Lisbon is definitely in our list of cities to return some other day.

In case you want more details about the places we visited, just drop me an email at myverysmallkitchen@gmail.com.


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