Lisbon is Portugal’s largest city – thriving with all kinds of culture, entertainment and cuisine. So, in this most Portuguese of cities you would think the culture is pretty homogeneous, right? Wrong! Today’s Lisbon is a multi-cultural city, capital of the Portuguese speaking world and full of all kinds of delights and fun from Asia to Africa to South America. Here is a mini-guide to multi-cultural Lisbon:
Martim Moniz Square
Portugal had colonies in Macau, Timor, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea, São Tomé e Príncipe and Cape Verde up to 1975. Thousands of people from these far-flung lands relocated to Portugal – bringing their unique cultures and cuisine. Martim Moniz Square is in the heart of the city. Here Asian and African communities meet and thrive. In the center of the square, a market has dozens of kiosks serving food and selling crafts. Weekends an open-air market fills this square, with a big variety of vendors selling handicrafts, organic foods, clothes and cravings. Market food stalls are open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and a fusion market is held weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Mouraria Shopping Center is the hub of small African shops selling food and crafts. Check out the Indian and Chinese shops with authentic food and spices too. Small markets sell ethnic foods, and you can even find a Chinese massage.
Brazil in Lisbon
From 1500 to 1823 Portugal colonized and ruled Brazil. Although the majority of immigration went from Portugal to Brazil, over the last 20-year thousands of Brazilians have moved to Portugal – bringing with them their love of food and music. Dozens of eateries with a Brazilian fare may be found in Lisbon; with Rodízio à Brasileira grilled meats, to regional cuisines from around Brazil. Many offer music at night.
Macanese cuisine is a fun meeting of Southern Chinese and Portuguese cooking, with influences from Southeast Asia and the Portuguese-speaking world. Some cool dishes came out of the spices that the Portuguese brought to China.
The Portuguese were in Timor from 1515 to 1976. And, when Indonesia annexed Timor, Portugal was one of the loudest voices for a free Timor. Today, a growing community from East Timor lives in Lisbon and Portuguese coffee giant Delta sells a Timor grown blend of coffee. Timor restaurants are springing up around the city. East Timorese cuisine, like the food of Macau, has influence from Southeast Asian and Portuguese cuisines.
Museums to check out
The Orient Museum (Museu do Oriente) in Lisbon tells the history of Portuguese exploration in the east. The museum is located along the Alcântara waterfront. The collection includes Indonesian textiles, Japanese screens, antique snuff bottles, crosses made in Asia for Western export, and the Kwok On Collection of masks, costumes, and artifacts.
The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga has an amazing collection of 16th century Japanese screens showing how the Japanese saw the Portuguese. For the Japanese this was their first contact with Europeans and their fascination is seen in the exaggerated emphasis on the Portuguese mustaches, large noses and puffy pants.
There are also Afro-Portuguese carved tusks, Indo-Portuguese chests, and samples of Chinese porcelain shipped to Lisbon. The theme of exploration is a theme in much of the collection, exploring Portugal’s link with Africa, India, China and Japan.
India in Lisbon
For almost five centuries, Goa was the capital of Portuguese India – Afonso Albuquerque took the city in 1510, and it returned to modern India in 1961. In the latter half of the 20th century a community of Goans grew up in Lisbon – bringing their mix of Asia and European cuisine and culture. That blend is part of today’s Goan cuisine: The Portuguese brought potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, guavas, and cashews from Brazil to India. Today dozens of Goan (or Goesa) eateries are to be found across Lisbon.
Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos is a Portuguese tradition. The name means “Meat in Wine with Garlic.” Then the tasty dish traveled with the Portuguese around the world. Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos can be found today in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Goa and even Macau. Vindaloo, a common Goan dish, is based (believe it or not) on Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos. Vindaloo got a spice boost from peppers, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and cloves among them, and an additional kick by replacing wine with vinegar.
In the 16th century, as trade routes to India linked Portugal to Goa, Portuguese came back with a taste for the Indian Samosa. They called them “Chamuças da Goa.” They soon became part of Portuguese cuisine.
From Africa came piri piri, a Portuguese hot sauce that is winning fans round the planet. It grows both wild and on farms. Piri piri is from the Swahili for ‘pepper pepper’.
The source of this hot pepper thrives in East Africa, and it traveled the globe with the Portuguese, from South Africa to Goa, from Brazil to Madeira. Try it on grilled meats, salads, or with cheese – it is the right mix of heat and flavor. Piri piri sauce, very popular in Portugal, is often made from crushed chilies, citrus peel, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, colorau, basil, oregano, and tarragon.