Today, Chris decided that we would take a day trip from Porto to what is often considered the birthplace of Portugal, or the ‘cradle city’ of Portugal because it is widely believed that Portugal’s first king was born there, and also due to the fact that the battle that led to the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal was fought in the general area. Guimaraes is famous for its many castles, but unfortunately for us, we didn’t have too much daylight time to see a lot of it. We were able to have time to wander through its historic streets and also dine at a delicious local restaurant that we had to navigate through a parking lot and side alleys to get to.
At this point, we’d eaten so many delicious dishes during our Portugal trip, but this particular meal was especially notable given how local it was (it felt like local people who knew the owners were dining there, and we heard no other language other than Portuguese other than our own), how hidden it was through a parking lot, and how simple, short, and straightforward the menu of the day was. Simple is not a code-word for “boring” or “bland” at all here; instead, we had two of the most traditional and tasty dishes of our trip here. We enjoyed tripas a Portuguesa (traditional Portuguese tripe, pork, and white bean stew) with buttered rice and bacalao com nata, or salted cod baked with cream and what seemed like cheese, in an earthenware dish with a crunchy breadcrumb top. We also had the vinho verde, or “green wine” also known as a local young red wine (hence the “green” in the name) that is made from young grapes and has a thick viscosity.. it honestly reminded me of pouring blood out into a bowl. You drink it not out of regular wine glasses, but rather out of rice-shaped bowls like in Chinese cuisine. The dishes were simple but so comforting and homey. I kept eating more and more of the stew, struck by how simple the flavors were but how good it all tasted. The white beans were so soft and creamy, and the tripe had a little bit of chew and almost melted in my mouth. And the bacalau — this was very likely my favorite way that bacalau was prepared during this trip.
Portuguese tripe stew was actually on my original list of dishes I wanted to eat while in Porto, but here we had it in Guimaraes, which is close by. According to stories I read, tripe stew is a symbol of the Oporto people’s generosity, as according to the legend when Henry the Navigator was preparing his ships to conquer Ceuta in 1415, he asked the people of Oporto to donate supplies to stock the Portuguese navy. Well, they apparently donated so much that they had nearly nothing left to eat other than tripe. However, that did not mean starvation for the people. Instead, they used their imagination to create this amazing recipe, which granted them the nickname of “tripeiros” or “tripe eaters.”
I love stories like this when people use in cooking what would once be considered “poor people’s food” and turn their limited ingredients into something delicious that would eventually be treasured by a whole people.