When the Portuguese sailed to Japan in the 16th-Century, they brought a special dish with them. Today called tempura.

In 1543 a Chinese ship with three Portuguese sailors on board – António da Mota, Francisco Zeimoto and António Peixoto – heading for Macau was swept off course and ended up on the Japanese island of Tanegashima. The Japanese were in the middle of civil war and eventually began trading guns with the Portuguese. This way the first trading post in Japan became a fact.

The Portuguese remained in Japan for nearly a century – until 1639 – when they were kicked out and a few hundred Christians (missionaries and converted Japanese) killed because the ruling shogun Tokugawa believed Christianity to be a threat to the Japanese ancestral traditions.

After their ships sailed away the Portuguese left behind a fried green bean recipe called peixinhas da horta ( little fish of the garden), in Japan called tempura.

Peixinhos da horta was often eaten during Lent – the 40-day period before Easter that in Christianity is devoted to fasting and abstinence – when the church dictated that Catholics were not allowed to eat meat.

The word tempura comes from the Latin tempora, a term referring to the time of fasting. If you are not allowed to eat meat during that period, fried green beans are a good alternative.

But it had other functions too. When the poor couldn’t afford fish, they would eat these beans as a substitute, explains Lisbon’s Michelin-starred chef José Avillez in BBC Travel. Sailors also used to fry the beans to preserve them during their long journeys.

The Japanese lightened the batter –eggs, flour and ice-cold water! – and changed the fillings. Today everything from shrimp to sweet potatoes is turned into tempura. The Japanese inherited the dish from the Portuguese but made it far better.

Feliz Páscoa                                  Happy Easter                    (pic Observador)




There is much discussion about mass tourism and golden permits but in Portugal one is inclined to say: ‘don’t kill the chicken with the golden eggs.’ Let’s take a closer look at the expanding tourism industry.

Few destinations have witnessed a boom in tourism like Portugal. According to UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) the country welcomed nearly 7 million international arrivals in 2010. By 2016 that figure had tripled.
Since then tourism revenue has increased by 17%, year-on-year.

The 10 million visitors to the capital – almost as many as the entire Portuguese population –generated last year almost 14 billion euros and more than 180.000 jobs in the greater Lisbon area. The majority of these tourists – 90% arrived by plane and 75% for a short city break – came from Brazil, France, Spain, the US, and the UK. They spent on average 160 euros per day and usually stayed 2-3 nights.

But is overtourism not turning Lisbon into a second Venice, a place saturated with tourists to the point of becoming unsustainable to live in? The increasing number of cruise ships are generating more air pollution than revenues for the local economy and residents in the capital report growing anti-tourist sentiment because of progressive noise and trash nuisance.

More than one-third of the houses in the historical neighbourhoods – Alfama, Baixa, Castelo, Chiado, and Mouraria– are rented out to tourists.
The Baixa Pombalina – one of the first rehabilitated quarters downtown – is filled with hotels and tourist apartments. 20% of the 22,000 hotel beds in Lisbon are situated here and expected to increase even further.

The number of short term rentals –in Portugal registered as alojamento local (AL) – has even overtaken Barcelona, that is 3 times bigger than Lisbon. It is not surprising that the City Council urgently wishes new legislation to restrict permits and maximise percentages for AL.

Foreigners – especially French and Englishmen, followed by Brazilian and Chinese – bought in 2017 almost 12 % of the real estate in the country, in particular in booming Lisbon. Not only the poor but increasingly also the middle class is forced to buy a house in the outskirts of the capital. The city centre is becoming more and more a place for the well-off.

Bom fim de semana              Have a nice weekend            (pic Público/Sapo)