About seven in the evening I got into a chaise on shore, and was driven through the nastiest city in the world, though at the same time one of the most populous, to a kind of coffee-house, which is very pleasantly situated on the brow of a hill about a mile from the city and hath a very fine prospect of the river Tajo from Lisbon to the sea. Here we regaled ourselves sith a good supper.
--from Henry Fielding's Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, 1754.

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Soup in Portugal

First off, they're wonderful--mostly hearty, country dishes that can easily serve as a full meal with country-style bread (called Pão, in Portugal) and, ideally, a Portuguese wine.

Of all its cuisine, it's perhaps in the soups that Portugal's past history is most evident--its occupation by the Romans, then the Moors, and its fabulous exploits in seafaring and trade beginning in the early 15th century. Imagine those magnificent caravels carving new routes around Africa, to India, to Asia, and to the New World, bringing back curry, cinnamon, cloves, chiles, rice, tea, broad beans, peanuts, tomatoes, and potatoes. And yet, it's mostly in the soups that these influences show up--and in all their types:

  1. Canja: Portugal's classic chicken soup, with lemon and mint, dating from medieval times.

  2. Açordas: These "dry soups"--whose name derives from the Arabic shorba--are created from stale bread, broth, eggs, and whatever flavorings are available. Originally, you just crumbled the bread into a bowl, tossed in your flavorings and leftovers, cracked in the raw eggs--then poured the boiling broth in to cook and heat the ingredients in a thick, porridgy soup. The most well known açordas today are Açorda à Alentejana (with garlic, cilantro, bread, and egg) and Açorda de Mariscos (with garlic, cilantro, bread, egg, and shrimp). The Portuguese version of gazpacho is an açorda--the same ingredients as its Spanish counterpart, but much much more bread proportionately.

  3. Sopa Seca: This different kind of dry soup, popular in the north, is downright medieval in its construction. Leftover meats and vegetables are layered in a big bowl with slabs of bread; mint is sprinkled on top; hot stock poured up to the top; then the bowl is shoved in an oven and baked for about 30 minutes.

  4. Sopas: These chunky soups are filled with vegetables, sausages, meats, and seafood and often thickened with potatoes.

  5. Caldos: These are mostly clear and pureéd soups. The most famous--considered Portugal's national dish--is Caldo Verde, traditionally made with Galician cabbage (with kale or even collard greens as frequent substitutes).

  6. Caldeiradas: These hearty seafood stews usually include garlic, onion, and tomatoes.

  7. Cremas: Relatively new and sophisticated soups that are served in restaurants as a first course, often puréed.

À vossa saúde!