Tremoços

After commenter Ines referred to the adventure of teaching an American how to eat tremoços, I thought perhaps it was time to introduce this snack food to the blog audience.

Tremoços are a yummy, hands-on snack beloved by the Portuguese, and usually eaten in a café along with a nice, cold beer. Normally they’re served on a plate, but in our house we like to use an olive dish, which provides a handy spot for the husks.

Tremocos dish

This tasty little treat is also popular in Spain, Italy, Brazil, Egypt, and several other nations in the Middle East. But the original tremoços lovers were the Romans, who spread their snack food all over the Empire. (They might have picked up the idea from the Egyptians.)

Our local tremoços are seeds from Lupinus luteus — the yellow lupine, which grows in wild profusion throughout the Iberian Peninsula. In some areas they’re harvested from the white lupine, Lupinus albus.

Lupinus luteus

After harvest, the beans must be pickled in brine for several hours at least. Snackers who are not fans of salt (which is to say, no native Portuguese ever) rinse theirs prior to eating. They’re a wonderful snack food with very high levels of protein (much more than whole grain wheat), dietary fiber and amino acids, and have a high bio-availability of all sorts of vitamins and minerals. Kind of a miracle food, actually, except for that excessive salt…and the beer that just cries out to accompany it.

Here is what tremoços look like up close:

Tremocos closeup

Now, there is a trick to eating these. See that little opening in the bean at center? You hold the bean between your forefinger and thumb, with that opening facing outward. Then you nip it just above the opening, breaking the husk. Immediately after, you squeeze with your forefinger and thumb, and pop! In goes the seed to your mouth.

Here’s the intact bean:

Tremoco whole

And here it is after being opened. The husk is on the left, and the yummy prize is on the right.

Tremoco husked

I mentioned a trick. Once you’ve had a few practice sessions, opening tremoços becomes second nature — but first timers can expect comic results. My first experience with these was early in my relationship with Maria, my wife. During our initial courtship, she took me to a very nice restaurant to introduce me to several traditional Portuguese dishes, and the first one up was a plate of tremoços. She carefully explained how to eat them and then demonstrated the process. It looked so simple; she did it in about one second. I thought, how hard can it be?

So I picked up my first tremoço, and bit it completely in half. Maria valiantly repressed her laughter and explained that it was a nip, not a bite.

Okay, trying again. I picked up another and nipped it. Then I squeezed. Nothing happened. I squeezed harder. Nothing happened.

Again managing not to laugh, Maria took it out of my hand, nipped it again, and effortlessly popped the bean out. Then she explained that I needed to nip a little harder. “Something in between the bite and the nip,” she said. “And squeeze it at the base, not the center.”

Argh. Fine. I picked up a third.

Nip. Squeeze.

Nothing.

Squeeze again.

Nothing.

I shifted my grip slightly, squeezed with all my might, and POW! The bean exploded out of the husk, flew right over my head, and landed at the feet of a diner at the next table.

And that was when Maria gave up and laughed uproariously.

So, just a warning to anyone who has never eaten tremoços before: Don’t make your first time be when you’re trying to impress a date.

(Lupine illustration from Wikipedia.)

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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 food, Portugal. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tremoços

  1. It was just like in the movie “Pretty Woman,” but without escargot. 🙂

  2. alifemoment says:

    This tremocos look really interesting, never seen them before!

  3. Lisa Shaw says:

    So, how would you describe the flavor of these tasty-looking tidbits, apart from being salty?

    • oregon expat says:

      See, this is why I’m not a wine or food critic. I’m terrible at describing flavors. It’s not sweet, nor sour, nor peppery…it, er, tastes like tremoços. 🙂 Very mild, nice texture, fun to eat.

  4. It sounds like Maria decided to stick around, so perhaps it IS a good date food.
    😉

    (In situations like these, my husband and I often say to each other, “Aren’t you glad this isn’t a first date?”)

  5. John in the USA says:

    This is HYSTERICAL. Can’t wait to try them myself… when no one is looking!

    LOL

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