Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My love for Bacalhau

Tuesday, August 24

Today we celebrate our one week anniversary being in Lisboa, one of the most beautiful places in the  world.

As of this morning, I swore I would never eat Bacalhau, the iconic ingredient of Portuguese cuisine. We have seen it everywhere, large slabs of unappetizing looking dried, salted fish that lay stacked in great numbers on tables both in markets and large grocery stores. There is almost no food that I won't try. I have consumed without hesitation morcilla (sausage stuffed with pig's blood, rice, onions and spices.), tripe (the rubbery lining of an animal's stomach), frogs legs, chocolate bugs, and yes, all parts of a pig. Bring it on, I always say. But Bacalhau???? Well, the thing is, it looks intimidating! Okay, so before I lose the few followers I have, let me tell you all that I was wrong...very, very wrong.

The story: This morning we had the pleasure of going to the Universidade Nova de Lisboa to meet Antonio Granado, the professor whose class Steve will be teaching. He is a bright and engaging man who showed us classrooms and other parts of the journalism building. It was all wonderful and I am sure you will be hearing more about it on Steve's blog. But, my blog, remember, focuses on the food. So...

We decided to "take a coffee", uma bica (an expresso),  and got onto the subject of food with Antonio. (but of course.) When I told him I probably would not be trying Bacalhau he looked at me as if I were crazy. I asked him if it was something good and he just smiled, nodded and smiled some more. It was as if there were no words to describe, but by the look on his face...you just KNEW. He told us it was a wonderful thing to eat and we had to eat this! I trusted this man! We rushed off to lunch to find my cod!

Near to our house in the Praça Rossio, one can find a number of outdoor restaurants and cafes. It would be unusual for a restaurant to not have bacahlau in some form on it's menu. We decided to share bacalhau assado (roasted cod), a very delicious plate of thick, moist fish with tiny pieces of crispy garlic and large roasted potatoes in olive oil.  We would have taken a picture, but we ate it so fast, we forgot! It was great!!! (thank you Antonio!) I learned there are over 1000 recipes for this fish so when we returned home, I spent the next two hours researching how to transform these ugly dried slabs into wonderful tasty dishes. Tomorrow I will head to the market, ask the fishmonger to slice me up some dried cod, soak it for 24-36 hours (remembering to change the water often) and I will cook us up bacalhau that any Portuguese would be happy to eat. At least I hope! 

Anyway, for now, Boia Noite. I need to dream about cod!


  1. You just can't come to Portugal and not eat bacalhau, it's just not possible! :)

    There is also a way of eating bacalhau that is
    very typical and it doesn't involve soaking it for a day or 2. It's called "punheta de bacalhau". If you cook it at home, you have to go to the grocery store (or supermarket) and ask for "bacalhau desfiado", which is actually shredded codfish. Cut onions into circle slices and put some olive oil and some black olives. Some also season this with paprika. It's strong flavored but once you become used to bacalhau, it should be easy :)

    And, if you don't mind me correcting: it's "morcela" instead of "morcilla" and "tripas" instead of "tripes". But you are doing great at Portuguese!

    Keep on adventuring yourself throughout Portugal :)

    All the best,

  2. On your adventure through portuguese taste buds I would really recomend "Alma" restaurante in santos.


    Besides the overall aspect, nice and modern which can be a breather from the typical tasca, the main dishes of bacalhau and leitão are a great way to taste typicall portuguese dishes made delicious by a great chef.

    I really recomend it...