Eating our way across Portugal

We’re back home after a few days of wandering through the Alentejo region, stopping every few hours for yet another massive and delicious meal of Alentejana cuisine. So I thought I’d post a few images to make you hungry.

fish soup

In Mourão, a village near the Spanish border and on the edge of the Alqueva Reservoir, we ordered two dishes for the three of us. The first was sopa de cação, a shark soup, which is served over thin slices of bread. The bowl at lower right holds a completed serving. We also ordered the house red wine, which arrived in a clay jug and was excellent.

After slurping our way through the delicious shark soup (we ate every bit), the second plate arrived.

chickpea stew

This was cozido de grão, a typical dish for both the Alentejo and Algarve regions. It’s a stew of chickpeas with whole fresh mint leaves, and served with pork that has been stewed long enough for the meat to fall off the bones. (The pork includes large chunks of chouriço for flavoring.) We barely made it through this second dish, but persevered valiantly.

In Moura, a larger village near the Alqueva dam, we stumbled upon a local hotspot for lunch. It’s always a good sign when you walk in the door and the place is packed with chattering Portuguese. Here we once again ordered two dishes for the three of us (having not learned from the first time) and ended up with this:

lamb and pork

One dish of ensopado de borrego (stewed lamb with mint), one dish of lombinhos de porco (grilled pork loins) which were topped by a fried egg and served with rice and incredibly yummy garlic french fries, as well as boiled potatoes, a salad, a dish of olives, fresh bread, and of course the requisite cold beers.

But by far the most impressive meal we had was at Taberna Típica Quarta-Feira in Évora. This was an informal restaurant with the look of a family-owned tavern, and in fact the owner would walk back and forth along the tables, making sure everyone was well provisioned.

We were very well provisioned indeed. The restaurant does not have a menu. You simply make reservations, and then show up to be served. On the night we arrived, the dinner was pork shoulders from porco preto, or black (wild) pig. It included potatoes, a dish of perfectly done rice and minced, creamed spinach.

black pork

When the main dishes arrived, we were stunned into silence because we’d already been served a series of delicious appetizers, including garlic-stuffed mushrooms and an assortment of fine chouriços, along with the usual bread, olives and cheese. Then what appeared to be half a pig was placed in front of us. What you see on the main platter above is what remained after we had already served three plates.

But it was so, so fine. Oh my. It was the best pork I’ve ever tasted, seasoned to perfection and falling apart with the merest touch of a fork. We ate one serving each, took a breather, and then had seconds. This left about 25% of the original platter still intact. Over a period of time, we picked at that until we’d whittled it down to about 15%, then gave up in despair. It was a crime to leave it behind, but we simply could not eat any more. Our belts were already loosened and our stomachs distended.

And then the desserts arrived. Four of them! Arroz doce (rice pudding), encharcada (a dish made purely of eggs and sugar), a nutty cake, and a bowl of fruit. We dented those as much as was humanly possible and then pretty much crawled back to our hotel. Not even at Thanksgiving have I eaten so much food.

We are now eating bread and water for the rest of the week.

Just kidding! Today we had fresh shrimp from the City Market, a selection of cheeses, fresh-baked bread and beer for lunch. Time to go for a walk…

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in culture, Portugal, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Eating our way across Portugal

  1. Power Wench says:

    Yowza! What great meals! You just gave me the idea of adding fresh mint to the chickpea stew I’m planning for dinner. But you’d better plan to get on that bike as soon as company leaves, and haul your stuffed self up some of the local “hills” to work off the damage.

  2. JMG says:

    I’m sure the owner wouldn’t be offended should you have asked him to pack the beautiful leftover chunk of meat to take away. In the silence of the kitchen, by 4 or 5 AM, a sandwich of a generous slice … God exists.

    • oregon expat says:

      We would have loved to make sandwiches out of that leftover pork. Alas, no access to a refrigerator at our hotel meant no capability for storage. It was one of those things you must simply enjoy in the moment, and then remember.

  3. Karyn says:

    Clearly, carry-out service is needed. As in, after dinner and dessert, “Please, could you carry us out to our hotel.” 🙂

    What a delectable way of introducing a friend to your country.

  4. Helder Carvalho says:

    Portuguese cuisine is very good, but northern portuguese cuisine is better by a mile, you must try rojões à minhota, papas de sarrabulho, cabrito roasted in a wood oven, roasted suckling pig, arroz de sarrabulho, francesinha porto style, etc, etc

    • oregon expat says:

      Thanks for the list! 😉

      I’ve been in northern Portugal and did indeed enjoy the cuisine tremendously. It helps to have a high metabolism, though — those servings are huge!

  5. xenatuba says:

    I’m drooling. Karyn sent me to view the food pics…

  6. Astrid says:

    I think I gained a few pounds by just reading your blog entry 🙂

  7. Nuno says:

    It’s always nice to see how much Portuguese cuisine is appreciated an particularly the Alentejo cuisine.

    Let me give you a list of the best Restaurants near Alqueva. It as some photos, their location, the main dishes, prices and so on. There is also a section of gastronomy, with some receipts of typical Alentejo dishes and sweets.

    You can explore the rest of the website, I’m sure you’ll find very useful information for your next travel to Alentejo.

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