Do you like fish? You’d love the food in Lisbon. It’s sardine season now, and people have told us that the catch has been especially good this year: the sardines are plentiful and fat. These aren’t the little guys you buy stuffed into a can like – well, you know. They’re more like small trout: four grilled sardines (sardinhas assadas) make a meal, along with the ubiquitous pair of boiled potatoes and two tomato slices. Aficionados eat them whole, from head to tail, but we haven’t quite graduated to that level. I cut out the guts, chop off the head and scrape the meat off the bones with my knife. To each his own.
The one thing you can get any time, any where is salt cod (bacalhau). The cod is dried and salted for shipping and storage, and that’s the way it’s sold in the stores. It has to be reconstituted before you can eat it – meaning getting the salt out and the water back in. Supposedly, there’s a real trick to getting all of the salt out, but we haven’t had a bad one yet.
Beyond that, there’s an incredible variety of fresh and salt water seafood. We’ve eaten sea bass (the European variety, not the South American fish that’s sold in the U.S.), fresh water bass, salmon, dorado (what we’d call mahi-mahi), fish soup, shrimp, squid, and octopus. There’s a lot more than that on the menus, which we’re working through, one by one. It’s a tough job, but we’re up for it!
Pork is everywhere, too, in all its varieties. If you walk into a deli, there will be a pig’s leg proudly displayed on the counter, so you can see that you’re getting the prized black-footed variety, and not some cheaper imitation.
When you need a break from fish and pork, there’s pizza, maybe a hamburguer or a sanduíche with French fries that are always perfect, soup (Portuguese gazpacho is chunky, not creamy like the Spanish kind, but we’ve grown to prefer the Portuguese recipe). No matter what you get, it’s all inexpensive. The two of us can go out for a meal and spend less than we’d spend per person at home, for the same or better quality. You can wash it down with a beer or glass of wine and not add a lot to your tab – but I’ll have to write about that some other day. I can smell sardines on the grill from the restaurant below us, which says it’s suppertime!