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