A delicious soup from Portugal that inspired Spanish dish.
Sopa de Tomate Alentejana origin story
Alentejo is the largest region of Portugal. But, it’s also one of the least visited. That’s because parts are remote and there isn’t a big city in the region.
Évora is probably the most popular place in Alentejo because of its beautiful cathedral, Roman temple, and bone chapel.
Tomatoes came to Portugal from the New World and quickly became established as a staple food, especially in Alentejo where the climate allowed them to flourish. And, where there’s tomatoes, tomato soup can’t be far behind.
In fact, the local tomato soup, Sopa de Tomate Alentejana, was so plentiful that it was served to Spanish prisoners after the Portuguese victory in the Battle of Montes Claros. At least that’s the legend. When the prisoners were returned to Spain, they brought the recipe for Sopa de Tomate Alentejana with them, adapting it into the famous Salmorejo soup that is so popular in Cordoba.
Making Sopa de Tomate Alentejana
The characteristic dish of Alentejo, Sopa de Tomate Alentejana, is made with a base of tomatoes, garlic, and onions. While there’s nothing unique about that, what’s added next makes the soup special. An egg is gently slid into the soup where it is poached in the tomato broth.
Sopa de Tomate Alentejana is served by ladling the soup over some Portuguese bread. Normally, it is topped with Chourico. Vegetarians can request the Chourico be omitted, however, be aware that sometimes the base of the soup is made with the rendered fat of the Chourico. Ask before ordering. Also, vegans can be accommodated by requesting the egg be omitted.
Variations on Sopa de Tomate Alentejana include adding potato or green pepper. Sometimes the soup is served with grilled figs on the side to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes.
Where to get Sopa de Tomate Alentejana
Sopa de Tomate Alentejana is served everywhere in the region, but personally, I like a unique restaurant near Monsaraz.
Telheiro is about 40 minutes from Évora and a 2 minute drive from Monsaraz, a beautiful hilltop village on the Spanish border. Residing inside a converted olive oil factory is Restaurante Sem-Fim. The atmosphere is rustic with tools of former mill decorating the interior. In addition to the large open dining area, there’s a cool little bar and an art gallery.
Sem-Fim serves an excellent Sopa de Tomate Alentejana. They also have a couple vegan items on the menu which can sometimes be difficult to find in and around Monsaraz.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto , Monsaraz, and Batalha in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.