11 Jul 2018 1507
Fernanda Meneguetti {Journalist} Devorável

Light Portuguese accent in gastronomy in São Paulo

It is inevitable: when a Brazilian thinks of Portuguese food, the first thing that comes to mind is salt cod. Not infrequently, in the form of golden creamy croquettes. Kale broth, duck rice and custard tarts come in a close second. However, if truth be told, the past few years have been changing (or at least broadening) this panorama. At least in São Paulo.

The fact that the city is home to more than 100,000 Portuguese citizens must, of course, have some influence. But, more than that, there are the São Paulo residents who are travelling and falling in love with Portugal more and more. Equally, there are Portuguese nationals bringing new flavours here in their suitcases.

Portuguese wine, for example, has become a symbol of security; of pleasure combined with value for money. Sardines are no longer automatically associated with tins, and poor quality. And sericaia has become an alternative to the traditional condensed milk pudding.

Some of the culprits in this process have a first and last name, as is the case with Vítor Sobral. As head of the Esquina group, with four restaurants in Lisbon and another three in São Paulo, this chef has introduced signature cuisine based on the produce and culinary heritage of his native land. At the same time, he has shown that this creative cuisine is permeable and is also influenced by the places he has travelled to.

Hence the grilled octopus, which, instead of being accompanied with the sacred potato, is served with cubes of baby cassava, a quintessentially Brazilian tuber. Or the cod moqueca, an irresistible temptation. The alheira burger with cheese from the Serra da Estrela mountains is as irrepressible as the prawn caril (NB many Brazilians don’t even know that there is a word for curry in Portuguese). 

Although Sobral may have seduced the foodies, culinary critics and other gourmands, he is not alone. The world of appetisers and other treats has been ‘Portuguesified’ without mercy !! In other words, the list of culprits won’t stop growing: the Casa Mathilde Doçaria Tradicional Portuguesa, today with five establishments in São Paulo, has replaced much of the traditional cheese bread with egg-yolk and sugar-based cakes to go with a cup of coffee.

The B.LEM Portuguese Bakery, with ten stores, has proved that it is difficult to resist a good bola de berlim, especially when it is filled with ovos moles or doce de leite. The Manteigaria Lisboa, in its turn, was the first to demonstrate that every day is custard tart day. So, it launched original custard tarts and . .. savoury ones !! ‘Portuguese’ chicken became a cause celèbre with customers at all nine outlets. 

In the same way, Pirajá, a Rio-run bar in São Paulo, established another best-seller on its menu: the alheira Scotch egg. At first, the boiled egg enclosed in sausage meat and covered in bread crumbs was only available on Wednesdays. But it was so successful that it became a best-seller in all five stores.

The last to arrive was award-winner Joachim Koerper. Holder of four Michelin stars, the German chef who adopted has Portugal as his home, opened the Axado gastro bar. This charming spot dedicates itself to contemporary recreational Portuguese cuisine, a place for sampling cherry and watermelon gazpacho with shrimp, and sharing flaked salt cod or shredded spider crab patê. A place to combine any recipe with balanced cocktails.

So, with little fanfare but great delight, São Paulo is being filled by all things Portuguese. A path of no return, which can - and should - open the way to new and ever tastier short cuts.

Like Share Subscribe