Ever seen a moray eel up close? No, I hadn't either, until I took a stroll through a Portuguese food and fish market in Lisbon. Come take a walk with me through some of the sights of the Mercado da Ribeira, an old market on the waterfront in Lisbon, Portugal. I spent a week in Lisbon last fall, and I found it a city easy to fall in love with. It is a very old city, with a faded glamour and a modest, gentle pace of life. The city rises late and stays up very late indeed. The food scene is simply wonderful (I showed you a few typical rustic dishes here).
I made a few new friends, too — an American expat named Deb, who rents vacation apartments in the city, and her friend Paulo Reffóios, who owns a restaurant and runs cooking classes for Deb's guests.
• Deb's apartments: Visiting Portugal
• Paulo's restaurant: Chaminés do Palácio in Lisbon
• Cooking classes in Lisbon: Lisbon Gourmet
Together they took me on a tour of the Mercado da Ribeira, a huge indoor market in downtown Lisbon. Now, this isn't the only or even the best place to buy seafood and produce in town, but it is frequented by chefs and many locals, and it offers an enormous array of the best of Portuguese food. If you love seafood, this place is a dizzying feast.
I saw eels curled in bundles like ropes, and I saw the Portuguese staple, bacalhau, salt cod, stacked high like so many planks of wood. There were bins full of sardines, and monkfish slit open, their glistening insides spilling out.
The thing about wandering a market like this is seeing how little you know, really, about cooking, and how many tastes and bites go uneaten because you simply do not know they exist.
• Visit the website: Mercado da Ribeira
It was a treat to walk through, and of course I want to go back as soon as I can. Take a spin through the photos for more, and see captions for a little explanation.
Have you ever been to Portugal? What did you think of the food there?
Related: Snapshots of Portugal: Fresh Seafood, Perfect Potatoes
(Images: Faith Durand)