When friends who visit Portugal tell us they tasted some amazing mushrooms, we always worry they are mistaken. During hard times, Portuguese cooks found ways to make tasty dishes out of many animal parts to make sure nothing went to waste. So those delicious “mushrooms” were probably pig ears in coriander sauce or sautéed veal kidneys.
But Portugal does have amazing wild mushrooms. They’re called “míscaros” (pronounced “meescaros”) and grow in the pine forests of the Beira region. You can stew them, cook them with meat, or combine them with rice. Míscaros are one of the crown jewels of Portuguese cuisine.
One of our grandfathers loved eating míscaros. He was always happy when it rained in August because that meant that míscaros would be abundant in the Fall. We remember him very fondly for many things, big and small. And we always like it when it rains in August.
You can often find míscaros in the Fall at Salsa & Coentros, one of our favorite restaurants in Lisbon. Click here for more information about the restaurant.
We dreamed we had died and gone to heaven. And heaven was a large pavilion sparsely furnished with long tables and bathed in white light. To our surprise, paradise was scented with the aromas of Portuguese cuisine: parsley, coriander, olive oil, garlic, codfish, and cinnamon. And there were many great chefs urging us to try their creations. We had a “pastel de massa tenra” cooked by Miguel Castro e Silva, roasted pork cooked at low temperature by Henrique Sá Pessoa, squid “pirolitos” made by Marlene Vieira, and a delicious tomato soup prepared by Alexandre Silva. We loved them all.
When we woke up, we realized we had been dreaming about a real place. The magazine Time Out Lisbon created a space in Mercado da Ribeira, one of the city’s food markets, where many of the best restaurants in Lisbon have stands. For a modest sum you can pick the food you like, pair it with some great Portuguese wine and enjoy the meal at one of the many tables. It is a heavenly way to experience the delights of Portuguese cuisine.
Portuguese cuisine is definitely slow food. You have to wait for the fish to grill, the clams to open, the meat to roast, or the shrimp to cook. If you’re in a hurry, Portuguese cafés offer a wide array of finger foods to eat on the go: tasty codfish cakes (bolos de bacalhau), delicious small pies (empadas), crunchy paninis (tostas mistas), and much more.
But, if you’re in need of something quick and more substantial, try a Portuguese hamburger chain called H3. They cook to order delicious hamburgers made with great ingredients. Start with the wonderful “croquetes de alheira” as a appetizer. Then, choose one of the many burger configurations, with toppings ranging from mushrooms to foie gras. You’ll see why this fast-food chain is growing so fast.
Click here for the H3 website (choose “onde” to see a list of locations).