I blame Rick Steves. He’s the one who wrote about this particular little spot, "Oreja de Oro", and when I read the phrase “pigs' ears” I knew I’d found Steve's Weird Food for Spain.
I ordered, “Una caña y orejos especial por favor.”* It’s a good thing I’d already had a drink when I arrived. And it’s a damned good thing I ordered that beer too. I should have ordered about six more.
The ears were cut into slivers, and you could see the ridge of cartilage running through each slice. I think they’d been deep-fried and after the guy put them on the plate he drizzled them with olive oil. A LOT of olive oil. So much that as I watched him drizzling it went on so long that I got bored watching, and then looked away for a bit, and then looked back and he was still drizzling, and then I looked away again, and back again, and yes, he was still drizzling. There were also some cooked potatoes on the plate (thank God), and a bit of other sauce. Mostly though, it was just strips of pig ears.
They came with a fork, but I found the best way to tackle them was to pick them up with my fingers and try to strip the meat off the cartilage with my teeth. And when I say “meat” I am being extravagantly generous. I estimate the makeup of each bit was 20% cartilage, 70% fat, and 10% meat. I have no idea if you’re meant to eat the cartilage bits or not. I tried that with one or two bits but…. ugh.
I did the best I could Steve, but I’m not convinced that even your legendary appetite would have been able to polish off a whole plate of pig ears.
After that debacle, and despite the fact that I was quite stuffed full of ear-y goodness, I promised myself a treat.** And here it is:
They’re freshly fried long, skinny donuts that you dip into thick hot chocolate! I had them in Barcelona too, and frankly the Barcelona variety was far superior to these ones, but at this point anything that didn’t taste like fingernails was ambrosia. Let's hope that the weird food for Portugal is some kind of improbably delicious confection. Or at least doesn't involve parts of an animal normally found only in pet stores.
* Ok, if those were “especial” I shudder to think what the “ordinario” would be like. Perhaps they are still attached to the pig…
** Also keep in mind that I’d run 30km earlier that day so I was doubly deserving of something chocolate.