Vegan Dobrada (Bean Stew)

Dobrada is the signature dish of Porto, Portugal.  Legend has it that Prince Henry the Navigator took all the meat in town before embarking on a long sea voyage leaving the city leaving only the tripe behind.  The resourceful people of Porto came up with this delicious dish of beans, carrots, spices and tripe.  I love the tripe version and make it as often as I can, but I had an idea to make it vegetarian. 

You will recall that I wrote a blog entry a few months ago about how difficult it is for vegetarians to enjoy Portuguese food.  Our culinary delights are mostly made with meat and fish making it difficult to cater to our vegetarian friends.  During a recent visit to my doctor I was inspired to develop a vegetarian Portuguese dish.  My doctor is a vegetarian and when I told her about my blog and Facebook group she was intrigued.  The only problem is that her dietary needs rendered all the recipes useless.  Not to be deterred she said she was adept at substituting ingredients to make any dish vegetarian and would visit the blog.  I pondered this dilemma on the way home.  There simply wasn’t any wriggle room in the recipes I have on the site.  For instance, you could replace tofu for octopus in my octopus rice, but the main flavor comes from the octopus’s broth itself.  I felt bad because my doctor has successfully treated me for a condition that would otherwise make me an invalide.  I wanted to come up with a dish that she could enjoy without having to make substitutions.  I settled on dobrada because the main flavor comes from the spices and chouriço since the tripe is added at the end and doesn’t really impart much flavor. 

Much like tofu or mushrooms the tripe sucks up the flavor from the cooking liquid.  The only challenge was the chouriço.  I knew that smoked vegetarian sausages existed, but I needed a flavor profile closely matching Portuguese sausage.  That is where our Spanish cousins saved the day.  I Googled vegetarian chorizo since no Portuguese version is available and found soyrizo.  It is made from soybeans and has the spices and smokiness that is a close match to the meat version.  The only drawback is that it doesn’t hold its shape while cooking.  It comes in a clear plastic casing resembling a sausage but when it is removed from its enclosure it crumbles like ground meat.  While it imparts the flavor, you don’t really see it in the finished dish.  So, I used one to make little soyrizo meat balls and gently fried them in olive oil. Iadd it at the end as a sort of garnish.  What you get is a richly flavored bean stew with plenty of meatiness from the mushrooms and soyrizo.  I was really impressed by how closely it resembled the original.  I didn’t really miss the tripe because the mushrooms and tofu really soaked up the flavors in the dish.  The only drawback was that although the soyrizo imparted the right flavor notes it just isn’t the same as biting into the real thing.  This minor detractor is more than overcome by the overall richness and health benefits.  Just like Prince Henry I took away all the meat, including the tripe, and resourcefully came up with a dish that rivals the original.