Nestled beautifully between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus river, Europe’s westernmost major city Lisboa is quite a treasure trove of culture, music, and of course food. I was fortunate enough to pop down to Portugal for a couple beautiful sunny days at the tail end of Carnival to experience the sights, sounds, and flavors for myself.
First and foremost I must admit that while the city itself is beautiful, the most amazing part of the experience for me was the people and the food. There are many a hidden nook and cranny places to eat along the twisty turny walk from Baixa Chiado all the way up the hill to Bairo Alto. Along this walk I met an interesting man, another fan of random conversation with strangers. This man owned a small restaurant (well I say restaurant, but it was basically the size of an eat-in kitchen), on some lonely side street. After a half hour of conversation in broken English, Spanish, and Portugese I was finally able to order a meal. Now I like to say that I ordered a meal, but I was basically told what I would be brought to eat.
On a very conservative scale I would rate the cuisine as exceptional. Octopus that was caught early in the morning as the main, accompanied by grilled aubergine and spinach in total washed down with a glass of Vinho Verde (by glass I of course mean bottle). The outgoing proprietor of the “restaurant in the kitchen” was also kind enough to make himself a plate and sit down an join me for the meal. During the multi-topic conversation the gentleman was kind enough to pass me the recipe for the octopus that was passed to him by his grandmother which he in turn will pass to his daughter. Notice through this entire post I have never referred to the gentleman by name. In the 2 hours we spent talking and eating with each other we never got to exchanging names… good times though. The unnamed man is both a fisherman, a bartender at a local hotel, and when the mood should strike him, a proprietor of a fine restaurant that is his kitchen. Total cost of the meal was €9 inclusive of wine and conversation.
- 1 fresh Octopus (frozen for two hours, then thawed to remove the rubbery texture)
- 1 quartered onion
- 1-3 glasses of red wine depending on the size of the octopus
- 1 “tooth” of garlic (or so I understood from my limited Portuguese)
- 1 finger grasp of salt per kilo (whatever that is)
- Bring all of the liquids to a boil in a pressure cooker (key component).
- Add the vegetables and leave for 2 minutes
- Add the octopus and cook under pressure for 15 minutes
- Serve hot and with broken conversation in at least 3 languages