How to prepare and cook a lamprey the Portuguese way

Lampreia Festival April 1-10 Montemor-o-Velho, Coimbra. 

Lamprey Festival advertising poster.

Lamprey is not a fish and has a cartilaginous skeleton. Local fishermen tie the lamprey by the head and pour it in and out of boiling water several times to kill it. Then they scrub the skin up and down with the help of a hard cloth to remove dirt and keep the skin intact. They remove a nerve in the head and make an incision in the animal’s belly. From there they make several cuts in the tail’s direction along the surface of the lamprey’s body. This will help to reach and remove the intestine and bill through the first incision. This is a delicate operation. The flesh will taste bitter and the dish will be spoiled if they don’t remove it intact. They keep the blood that drains to a recipient. The blood will be used to prepare this famous dish. They pour a glass of wine or vinegar into the recipient so the blood does not coagulate. This dish is typical from Baixo Mondego region-lampreys to go up this river that meets the sea at Figueira da Foz. Rice production takes place in Baixo Mondego fields. This region offers a magnificent changeable landscape throughout the year due to the different rice cultivation stages. From February to April restaurants from Baixo Mondego offer this highly prized and expensive dish and attract people from everywhere.

White spot = Baixo Mondego's region


Recipe for 3 persons

Half a lamprey

A glass of fresh blood

5dl of red wine

4 garlic tooth

A small onion



White pepper

For the rice

150 gr of rice

One medium onion

2 dl of olive oil

Nutmeg in powder to taste

Pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Cut half lamprey in sections and put it in the recipient. Add minced garlic, parsley, and a small onion in pieces, white pepper, and salt. Cover with red wine. Join the glass of fresh blood supplied by the fisherman. Let it rest for six hours in that “marinada”.

In a saucepan over the heat get the olive oil and the minced onion and let it fry until it looks kind of “blond”. (Cover the minced onion with oil.)Then add the lamprey sections and let it fry for 10 minutes. Keep turning the chunks in the saucepan. Add the “marinada” slowly, the juice where the lamprey has been resting. Let it boil slowly on a low fire. Use a fork to assure the flesh is cooked; if it’s tender it is good. Now it’s time to check the flavoring- the “tempero”- and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Add the powdered nutmeg. Nutmeg is the main spice of this dish so it must be used generously.

Now for the rice: in a new saucepan pour some of the cooked lamprey’s sauce. Get all the sauce you can but do not leave the lamprey without any. Join water that is enough to cook the rice. (1 portion of rice/ 4 portions of water) Check the flavoring again and adjust salt, pepper, and nutmeg if necessary. Let the rice cook for 15 minutes. The rice must be served very hotly and soaked. It can be served separately or you can add the lamprey chunks to it.

Enjoy! Bom apetite!

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