It seems only proper to start this post about Portugal, Portuguese food and a Portuguese Mercado with a picture of Sardines. Small, medium or large? Of course it was a tie between Sardines and the even more ubiquitous (if that is possible) Bacalhau, but the Sardines are more photogenic 😉
The day before I left Portugal I realized I had yet to go to a market. I had tried to go in Porto, looked at the map saw that there was one just close to our hotel and headed off only to find it was no longer a market just a market building.
In Lisbon I had more luck.
Mercadao de Campo de Ourique is a small local market in a quiet part of town. The thing that I loved most about it was how the market was as much about shopping for food as it was eating it. In the center of the budding was a large sitting area surrounded by venders selling everything from seafood to steak to pasta and pastries. It looks like the building has recently been renovated, with new awnings, new interior and fancy new signage. Traditional seafood, grilled to order meats, sushi, gelato, a large choice of beers both international and local plus so much more are on offer. And if the crowd on this Saturday was any indiction, this is one popular market. These guys only sold products made from black pigs raised on a local farm. They had a flame going in a small clay grill when I walked by, charring up some very delicious sausage which they insisted I try (oh go ahead twist my arm). Meat, meat anymore meat. Duck, Cow, Pig and Chicken. Below cooked to order meat which comes with a salad and then was top with thick cut fries or batata frita. The pasta was very tempting…In the end I opted for another Portuguese classic: Grilled chicken and french fries You can have either a half or whole chicken, sold by weight 9.90 Euro a Kilo (about $10.62 a kilo about $5 USD a pound). They cut it up they for you then offer to drench it in a fresh garlic and lemon sauce or a spicy hot oil. I opted for both! This array of prepared food looked pretty tasty as well. Then there were pretty savory pastries….Seafood, lots of it… And for a sweet ending you could choose between traditional pastries or gelato, I had a scoop of super dark chocolate and a scoop of coffee. Of course in addition to all the prepared food there were market stalls selling produce, cold cuts, fruit and fish. The fish section was separate from the rest of the market and was also the only part of the market that looked like it had not been renovated. My favorite fish vendor sold all of her wares in cans.Mostly sardines of every imaginable form and variation. Just the fabulous packaging alone my mouth water. In addition to a million version of Sardines, you could also get Mackerel and Tuna.My favorite thing about the market had to be the public scale that was located in the hallway on the way to the exit.
Mr Google wasn’t very helpful in giving me an explanation for why there is a public scale. My first thought was that it’s there so people could double-check their goods to make sure they hadn’t been over charged.
No trip to the market would be complete without a visit to the cheese counter. I have to admit that before I visited Portugal I don’t think I could have named you one Portuguese cheese and now well I’m not sure I could still pronounce any of them but I certainly will be seeking them out next time I am good cheese shop as the ones I had were all delicious.Having just got home yesterday I already want to go back. In doing the research for this post I discovered there is a fish market and a handful of farmers market that I didn’t make it to this visit. Next time I guess maybe I should rent a flat and stay for a month!
With the strong dollar and Portugal still recovering from the collapse, it has to be the best value of ant place in Europe to visit now. Add in an incredible amount of superb local produce, meats, a world-famous abundance of seafood, and a sophisticated restaurant culture.
The Portuguese people couldn’t be nicer and either we got very lucky or most of them speak English (mostly very well). We had no trouble getting around. It was actually easier than being in Spain or France or Italy.