Bom Dia!!! I've been traveling in Portugal for the last week and will be here for a few more days. Portugal has always been a special place for me. Ever since I visited this country over a decade ago, it reminded me of San Francisco. The hills, the water, the bridge, the trolleys....I remembered the food being incredible and super affordable. Great cheese, charcuterie, seafood, bread, wines (green, orange, white, red), port, there's so much to take in here. The place breaths history, with all the old buildings, cobblestone, and tiles. But yet, you can enter little cafes, restaurants, and bars that transport you to another world. Places that make you think you are at some hip spot in Paris or NYC. Even with the smallest footprint they are able to design eye catching memorable spots from shabby chic, to ultra cool, to fashionably quaint. For the next few posts, I'll be sharing all my finds during my travels in Portugal. For the first post however, you will find the top 5 things I ate in Lisbon.
Pasteis De Nata - Flaky Crusts baked with a creamy soft custard, topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. It's the perfect combination. I use to eat a version of this back in Macau and Hong Kong growing up as a kid but the one in Portugal is slightly different. The ones in HK and Macau are called Portuguese Egg Tarts, basically an egg tart that you would have at dim sum with sugar caramelized on top. The version in Portugal which the Chinese modeled their's after, has a thicker custard like consistency to it. It's richer and more decadent, a perfect snack in the afternoon or a breakfast pastry with some coffee. The one I enjoyed the most was from Pasteis De Belem, founded in 1837. This is the birthplace of Pasteis de Nata. The recipe is original to the one from 1837 and continues to uphold the ancient recipe with carefully selected ingredients. This is a MUST! Don't be wary of the long lines, it moves quickly.
2. Carabinerios - These are the sweetest and juiciest prawns I've ever had. It's also HUGE in size. It has a deep red color to it and it tastes best when it's prepared simply. Cervejaria Ramiro had the best version of it, it was roasted until perfectly cooked, coated in some sea salt. Don't forget to eat the head, the best part in my opinion. Cervegaria Ramiro cannot be missed when you are in Lisbon. For seafood lovers, this is the place to be. It was founded in 1956. The preparation method is unfussy and simple. The seafood is cooked perfectly. Don't forget to order the prego (steak sandwich for dessert).
3. Gambas Al Guillo - This is a quintessential dish of Portugal. Every Portuguese restaurant we went to had this list on the menu. My favorite version of this was served at JNcQoui Avenida. The prawn they used was scarlett prawns and thus sweeter and more tender. The sauce was divine with it's chili peppers. I found this version to be a bit spicier and more flavorful than others which I liked. This dish is to be enjoyed with toasted crisp bread. It's divine.
4. Sapateira - Ramiro served the whole crab cold with the crab roe in the head of the crab. The roe is a mixture they prepare with egg, mayo and mustard. If you are a fan of crab roe, then be sure to order this. You can dip the bread in the roe, eat it as is, or dip the sweet crab meat in it.
5. Pao Alentejo with Joselita Ham - I could eat this all day long. A soft but slightly chewy bread from the Alentejo region is my favorite. It works beautifully with the salty buttery goodness of the hams. I don't usually dig into bread baskets but I've been carbing hard in Portugual. It's simply too hard to say no to, especially when used as a canvas for the ham which is salty, flavorful, fatty, and tender.