Cod fish Brás style and chicken barbecued at Lisboa café
Lisboa café, the first Portuguese restaurant in Vietnam, opened its doors in Ho Chi Minh City last week.
After many years living in Vietnam, Pedro Castelo, a Portuguese man, married a Hanoian woman. Upon settling down in HCMC, Castelo opened a Portuguese restaurant on Cong Quynh Street.
Thanh Nien Weekly met with the restaurant's manager and chef, Gustavo Lucena e Vale, last week to discover this new cuisine in town.
Vale worked in two Michelin-rated restaurants in Lisboa, Portugal before moving to HCMC two months ago. Vale said the restaurant offers authentic Lisboa cuisine with a selection of interesting dishes ranging from VND35,000 to VND300,000.
Mediterranean food is famous for fresh full-flavors, and its vegetable and sea food dishes, whose nutrition enables long life in the Mediterranean population. In big cities in Vietnam there are more and more Italian and Spanish restaurants, but Portuguese cuisine is still somewhat exotic.
Since the 15th century, Portugal was one of the first countries to discover faraway lands and valuable products for trade. They have been using the exotic spices from Asia such as cinnamon, pepper, and vinegar for cooking ever since.
Talking about the difference between Portuguese food and other Mediterranean food cultures, Vale said modestly, "We [Mediterranean people] all use olive oil, garlic, onions, and tomatoes a lot for cooking. But Portugal is a poor country and sometimes we have to eat a very rich meal with only one dish such as stone soup. We also use vinegar, which provides a little bitter taste."
We started with the stone soup, almond salad with apple and octopus salad. For the main course we had roasted chicken, and pork baked with clams and for dessert we opted for a healthy choice of baked apple and drunk pear. We couldn't help ourselves and ordered one more dish, the cod fish salad, which is a Portuguese specialty.
Portuguese dishes at Lisboa have many layers of flavors. Most of the main ingredients, including chicken, pork, clam or cod fish, are marinated with garlic, olive oil, onion, white wine, bay leaf or other flavors before being mixed with other ingredients such as potatoes, beans and vegetables for cooking.
119 Cong Quynh Street, District 1, HCMC
Tel:(08) 3 920 9182
Gustavo Lucena e Vale, chef cum manager of Lisboa café - the first Portuguese restaurant in Vietnam, holding his chicken barbecued dish
Stone soup is full-flavored and a filling dish with a little bit of everything, including pumpkin, red bean, carrot, potato, turnip, chicken, beef, pork and chorrico (a kind of Portuguese cold cut). Everything was cut in small pieces and cooked together until all the vegetables were well done.
My friend, a big fan of almond, was very impressed with the chicken salad. Flavorful shredded chicken is mixed with baked almonds, salt, olive oil, vinegar and small pieces of apple. "It is interesting to have crunchy taste of almond together with apple and the softness of shredded chicken," she said.
Another chicken dish, the barbecued chicken, is tender and flavorful. The chef said it is a time consuming dish to prepare. Before the grilling the chicken, it is marinated in a special wine sauce, garlic, bay leaf, onion, sweet paprika, salt and pepper for about 12 hours.
Pork baked with clam is another typical, flavorful Portuguese dish, which contains lots of protein and vitamins. "At first the pork is marinated with white wine, onion, lemon juice and garlic and then boiled. And then this mixture is baked with clam and potato," said chef Vale.
Last but not least, the baked apple and drunk pear arrived. The baked apple has the natural look of a half of an apple with the peel intact. Baked with sugar, cinnamon and O'porto wine, the apple dessert is light, sweet, soft, warm and smells of cinnamon.
At first sight, the drunk pear looks like a chocolate dish. "Drunk pear is boiled in red wine, cinnamon, O'porto wine, pepper, sugar and honey," explained the chef.
Lisboa café also offers Portuguese wine and Portuguese music.