For the love OF COD

BROAD­CASTER NA­DINE HIG­GINS DE­VOURS LIS­BON

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - WEEKLYTRAVEL -

Some peo­ple dive into travel head-first. Me? I dive mouth-first. So when we land in Lis­bon, the first item on my to-do list is a food tour.

Our guide Sil­via from With Lo­cals is both a foodie and an am­a­teur his­to­rian. She meets us at a van­tage point over­look­ing the charm­ing faded grandeur of the Por­tuguese cap­i­tal and we im­me­di­ately regret hav­ing eaten so much for lunch.

We be­gin with a sta­ple of Por­tuguese cui­sine – salted cod. Cod to the Por­tuguese is like shrimp was to Bubba in For­rest Gump – they have more than 100 ways to serve it. We sam­ple it in a salad of chick­peas, onions and gar­lic. The cod has been soaked to re­duce its salti­ness but it’s still a sodium party in my mouth.

Next stop is an eatery called O Trevo where we try a dish that the late, great Anthony Bour­dain once de­clared “f*****g de­li­cious”.

Bi­fana is a sand­wich of very thin strips of pork mar­i­nated in wine, gar­lic and pa­prika. The re­sult is melt­ingly ten­der and flavour­ful. It’s en­cased in car­caça bread – a tra­di­tional but dy­ing art in Por­tu­gal. It’s a very sim­ple recipe – just flour, wa­ter and salt – and the re­sult is light and sits

less heav­ily than its French cousin, the baguette.

Also quite dif­fer­ent to its French rel­a­tive is the next dish – which at first glance is slightly less ap­peal­ing.

Out comes a plate piled high with caracóis – tiny snails, named for their curly shape when you pull their flesh out of the shell. See­ing their lit­tle faces makes me squea­mish but I close my eyes and pop a curly lit­tle sucker in my mouth – and thanks to the oregano, gar­lic and olive oil mari­nade, it’s quite good!

At our next pit stop we fi­nally get to sam­ple pos­si­bly the most fa­mous na­tive treat – pas­tel de nata, the Por­tuguese cus­tard tart. At Fábrica da Nata, near the Rua Au­gusta arch, they make them right in front of you and serve them warm, which is how they should be eaten. With a sprin­kle of cin­na­mon, they’re a creamy, crispy de­light.

I love them so much that the next day we hire an om­nipresent tuk-tuk to visit their orig­i­nal home, Pastéis de Belém, where they sell up to 50,000 every day.

Our next visit takes us up the steep, nar­row maze-like streets of Lis­bon’s Alfama neigh­bour­hood, which dates back fur­ther than this Kiwi’s mind can com­pre­hend. Sil­via’s canny guid­ance sees us take sev­eral hid­den el­e­va­tors to avoid much of the sweaty climb to get to Lisboa Tu & EU – a tiny restau­rant nes­tled among the houses. Here we try sar­dines cooked in olive oil, bal­samic and onions, and patanis­cas – light and fluffy deep-fried cod­fish frit­ters (an­other of the 100 ways to serve cod!).

The fi­nal stop is at a bar called Ginja d’Alfama, where we try Ging­inha Li­cor – a sour cherry liquor that is meant to be a good di­ges­tive.

Af­ter the glut­tony of the past few hours, it’s wel­come. Sil­via fur­nishes us with plenty of restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tions for din­ner but we’re too full to con­tem­plate an­other bite. Con­tin­u­ing the Por­tuguese gas­tro­nomic jour­ney will have to wait for an­other day.

Na­dine tries a bi­fana sand­wich at O Trevo, made fa­mous by a rave re­view from late celebrity chef Anthony Bour­dain.

Rise above the hus­tle and bus­tle at one of the city’srooftop bars. No Por­tuguese culinary tour is com­plete with­out a serv­ing or six of the not-so­hum­ble cod. A city that dates back to the Iron Age knows good food – in­clud­ing its fa­mous cus­tard tart,pas­tel de nata.

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