Thursday, June 03, 2010

Vegan in Lisbon

From Morocco, we took a mini flight from Casablanca to Lisbon (Portugal). Lisbon is a pretty great city - positively bustling with activity at all hours. It's jam-packed full of euro tourists speaking all their different languages and wearing their euro fashions. All of which is pretty fun. Lisbon is super hilly, full of beautiful buildings (and great tile work everywhere!), loaded with restaurants and museums and sights to see, and generally a nice place to be. It's right on the water, which makes for great views, and cold windy gusts. Also, everyone is speaking Portuguese, which turns out to be a problem because although Portuguese SOUNDS like a great language, actually it is a very tricky language designed to make you feel like a complete fool who cannot understand anything! Do not think to yourself "well, I listened to a few how-to-speak portuguese CDs, and I already speak really good Italian, I should be fine," like I did, because you will not be fine... and you will soon rely on starting every single interaction with "Fara ingles?" (Do you speak english?). Sigh!

Tiles on the side of a building in Lisbon.

So, as far as being a vegan in Lisbon, there is good news and there is bad news. First, the bad news. Traditional Portuguese food is not vegan-friendly. They like steak, with eggs on top of it, with fries on the side. Also, while you wait for your steak with eggs on top, they will bring you some sausage and cheese and tuna pate to eat. (They will also bring you bread, which you will devour). In fact, even the traditional pastries are all about eggs: many of them are bright orange, in fact, because they are almost pure egg yolks.

Some goodies from Celeiro Dieta... the little crostatine from Italy that I love so much (I still have 1 package left), some super yummy marzipan candies, quince paste, very tasty dried soy bean snack, yummy cappucino flavor soy pudding cups which served as breakfast every morning, cherry-applesauce, canned ravioli (uh... SO GOOD), and a box of vegan jello that I brought home for next time I need to make a bright green jello mold for a vegan pot luck.

BUT there's good news too. For starters, Lisbon has a whole chain of really good natural food stores (Celeiro Dieta) full of vegan treats and soy milk and granola and TONS of cool looking vegan burgers and sausages and such. If you were lucky enough to rent a place with a kitchen, I'd say you'd pretty much be good to go. These stores were really good. And of course, there are always plenty of nice fruit markets around.

More health food scores from a different store (choices!) Chocolate soy milk, some very tasty tofu & basil ravioli, a little jar of olive tapenade, and some REALLY freaking good raisin cookies which it turns out I should have bought in bulk because I liked them so much.

Even aside from the grocery stores, there are lots of great ethnic restaurants. Back in college, I spent some time in Florence, Italy, and I remember that there was ONE Chinese restaurant and one store where you could buy things like peanut butter and ketchup... Well, Lisbon is not like that. We ate Italian food, we ate Indian food (twice!), and there were plenty of other options for yummy, vegan-friendly food. It does make me a bit sad that I didn't have a chance to enjoy any local Portuguese cuisine... but it makes me happy that I was able to eat.

One delightful discovery in Lisbon was the prevalence of these little vegan "empanadas." One night, we went out to Centro Colombo, Europe's largest shopping mall... just to check it out! We found a huge restaurant zone there, and watched a particularly important soccer game with all the locals, while eating vegan Indian food... which was actually very good. After dinner, strolling the mall, we came across TWO health food stores, where I bought all sorts of goodies (see above)! I was so stoked. AND then, just across the way, I discovered a bakery that had 3 different types of savory vegan empanadas. I just about jumped for joy. Later, I found similar creations in the refrigerated section at the Celeiro Dieta, and pounced on those too. It's funny how quickly you become skilled at reading labels even in a foreign language! These little empanadas from the mall were definitely the best of any I had in Lisbon, and they were really delicious. Filled with spices, veggies, seitan or tofu... they were filling, flavorful, hearty, and delicious. Also, totally portable, which is such a great thing when traveling.

We are tennis nerds, so we spend a couple of our afternoons in Lisbon out at the Jamor National Sports Center, attending the Estoril Open. On our last day in Lisbon, we got to see Roger Federer play!! Woo hooo! Maybe you don't care about tennis, but if you do, you will understand why we were so stoked.

At the tournament they had a huge and elegant buffet lunch available... but naturally, very little of it was vegan. The gal at the register was SO sweet and charged me a kid's price. Really that was highway robbery on my part, because I don't think she understood just how much fruit salad I can put away. That fruit salad was AMAZING. Plus, a lovely green salad, plus fresh bread. Plus, being able to eat a meal together with Mr. Vegan Eats and Treats made the whole thing pretty great.

The first of my many courses of fruit salad.

Also, we saw so many ducklings in Lisbon... and I just had to share at least one duckling picture!


  1. Duckies!!! :D Looks like you guys had fun!!

  2. I love when bloggers do these "vegan in " posts! So fun, and Lisbon sounds fantastic. AND you got to see Roger Federer! Doubly fantastic!

  3. Yikes, my post got a little messed up - meant to say "vegan in [insert awesome country here]" posts. :)

  4. Part of my family is Portuguese and I've also been to Lisbon. This was 14 years ago when I wasn't vegan but I do remember lots of chicken and fish in most of the meals. Fishing is a big thing there.
    You are right about the language. It's a pain to learn. I can't speak it worth a darn but if I get around it I can understand a decent amount of it. I guess thats good enough. I'm glad you found some decent food. When I go back I'll keep my eyes open for the health food stores and ethnic restaurants.

  5. I just love Lisboa!It's my favourite city ever! And you are right about the language...ha, ha, I even had problems with my Portuguese CD.

  6. Oh my, the empanadas! How cool that you were able to find lots of goodies in spite of the traditional Portuguese meat and eggs stuff.

    Aww, pictures of ducklings are always welcome! I love how furry they look (instead of feathery) when they're that tiny.

  7. Lisbon sounds beautiful, and even though I'm not really into tennis, the tennis tournament looks awesome!

  8. Wow, what an amazing-looking trip! Glad you found some good eats!

    Those ducks are too cute.


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