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Sopa da Pedra and other culinary greats, Almeirim

almeirim

Sopa da Pedra or Stone soup originated in the town of Almeirim roughly 10 km from Santarem close to the Tagus river and in the wine region of Ribatejo – Central Portugal. Due to it’s fame that can be thanked to the Soup and the many restaurants that offer it, Almeirim has become a culinary centre for regional food incorporating some of the best restaurants in Central Portugal!

Portugal is one of the countries in Europe that got hit the hardest by the bank crisis. Crisis appears to have the tendency to make people contemplate the past and seemingly it causes them to hang stronger on old traditions. Even though driving around Portugal and living in Portugal doesn’t feel like crisis, there is some obvious introspection and solidarity among the people that is becoming more evident throughout the whole society and its bringing old stories back to life and into relevance.

Sopa da Pedra is the Portuguese version of a story that exists for a very long time and has many versions coming from many parts of Europe.

Sopa da Pedra is the story of stone soup. In Portugal The story’s lead role is taken up by a monk. This monk travels to the village of Almeirim with a pan and asks people for a donation for the poor. The people ignore him and are not willing to supply, having too much poverty themselves.

He than goes to the border of the village and picks up a stone, he fills the pan with water and the cleanly scrubbed, round edged stone. He starts up a fire and puts his ‘soup’ to boil.

The villagers pass and they are curious and  ask him “what are you making?” He replies ‘stone soup’ so puzzled by his answer, they ask ‘is it good?
He replies ‘yes it’s quiet good but it’s missing something. It could do with some potato, so the passing villager doesn’t mind to give some potatoes and he gets them from his field.
Another villager passes and asks the same questions, the monk replies, “it’s delicious but to get the real flavour it needs some typically home made Chourico”, this villager also doesn’t mind to go home and get a bit of Chourico. The monk keeps this up the entire night, talking to the villagers and getting them to part with a small part of their produce while the soup cooks steadily and gains more and more ingredients and taste.

When the soup is fully filled, ready  and tasty, he removes the stone and invites all the villagers to share in this amazing delicacy. The people unanimously claim they’ve never tasted anything better!.

Almeirim is the Portuguese origin or ‘home town’ of this delicious and nutritious soup that has many varying and different recipes. Most consist at least of potato and beans in Almeirim it generally comes with three types of meat. Farinheira sausage, pigs ear and Portuguese Chourico.
Because of it’s culinary past, Almeirim has become a real melting pot for traditional cuisine and some amazing restaurants. mostly concentrated on a busy ‘dining out’ stretch close to wine producing cooperative of Almeirim and the old bull fighting ring.
Almeirim is a small wine producing town close to Santarem, the wine that made it famous is the wine of the quinta da Alorna, it’s a busy town that unlike most Ribatejan towns still bustles at night.

Their is an unexpected multitude of successful and gorgeous restaurants here, they all serve ‘sopa da Pedra’ and their own regional specialities. The restaurants are very busy and it’s a lively dining experience known by most Portuguese but not yet discovered by tourists!

Soon we will be adding some of the best restaurants in Almeirim on Go Discover Portugal

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