What is Portuguese Chouriço Sausage?

Four links of Portuguese chouriço

My sausage is suffering from an identity crisis, and it irks me. Mention chorizo, and what springs to mind are pungent Mexican links filled with ground meat that’s redolent of garlic and chile powder. But mention chouriço (pronounced sho-ree-zoo), the musky smoked sausage of Portugal, and “Isn’t that just another kind of Spanish chorizo?” usually follows. Well, I’m tired of this culinary confusion, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

I was weaned on chouriço (sometimes called linguiça), as every good Portuguese child should be. The sausage held sway at every meal. At breakfast, it was served instead of bacon. At lunch it insinuated itself into soups and tortilhas (frittatas). And at dinner whole meals were orchestrated around it: favas guisadas com chouriço (fava bean and sausage stew), cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese boiled dinner), and the inflammable chouriço à bombeiro — sausage that had been doused with brandy and set afire at the table with a great whoosh. Accompanying it were fat, orangish batatas fritas, potato wedges that had been fried in corn oil infused with the sausage’s flavor and color. All that was needed to begin was a quick prayer, then a nod from my father.

But after a lifetime of insensitive comments from others, I began having doubts: Was chouriço merely a chorizo knock-off — a Portuguese Payless to a Spanish Manolo Blanhik?

To settle the matter once and for all, I called Herminio Lopes, owner of Lopes Sausage Company in Newark, NJ. Besides making some of the best chouriço I have ever tasted, he plays both sides of the Iberian border by also selling Spanish chorizo.

Clockwise from top left: Sausages at Lopes Sausage Co.; Herminio Lopes; pork being cut at Lopes; more sausages at Lopes. Photo © Bryan Anselm for the NY Times

According to Lopes, both sausages are made with pork shoulder, paprika, garlic, black pepper, and salt, but an astonishing 20 percent of Spanish chorizo’s weight is paprika. Chouriço, on the other hand, has considerably less paprika and much more garlic and black pepper. In addition, lots of Portuguese red wine is splashed in to round out the flavor. In short, it’s got a bigger bite that can hold its own in lots of dishes.

Feeling a superiority dance coming, I called back and asked a clerk which sausage is more popular.

“In terms of sales, chouriço,” she said.

Yes! Portugal rules, even if no one knew it but me. But my smug self-satisfaction was short-lived. Lopes got on the line and told me that one of his biggest chorizo customers was none other than the White House. (Was that swagger I heard in his voice?) Apparently, Bill Clinton had some of Lopes’s chorizo at a fundraiser in 1996, and from then on he ordered 50 to 60 pounds a month, used to impress world leaders. When George W. Bush took office, he kept the chorizo coming. All I have to say is, “That’s okay, Washington. My campaign to put a chouriço in every pot has just begun.” Originally published October 25, 2003

Source

Lopes Sausage Co.
304 Walnut St., Newark, NJ 07105
(973) 344-3063
(They ship nationwide)

Recipe

Portuguese Sausage Frittata

David Leite's signature

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. Dear David, my husband and I were in Portugal last fall and loved it, the people and the food. I am confused though by your reference to the fact that chouriço is often referred to as linguiça. I live in North Attleboro, MA, and we can buy chouriço and linguiça as two seperate items. Isn’t that correct? We do love them both. Thanks.

    1. Kathleen, some stores, especially in non-Portuguese communities, call all Portuguese sausage chouriço while others call them linguiça. And what makes it even more confusing, as I mention in my book, is that there’s no nationally accepted distinction between the two sausages—here or in Portugal. In the U.S., different manufacturers have their own definition of what each sausage is. To some, linguiça is lean while chouriço is fatty, or vice versa. To others, chouriço is spicy while linguiça is mild, again, or vice versa. Some even have several types of chouriço: lean, fatty, very fatty as well as mild and spicy! So my point, both in the article and in the book, is that any kind of distinction, as you have in the stores in North Attleboro, and I had in Fall River, are really community-based differences. The one consistency: linguiça is smaller in diameter. I hope this helps!

      1. Hi, Pat. Yes, that’s the regional dialect, which is different from the mainland. “Shah-rdeee,” is the name Azoreans brought with them to the US, which morphed into “shuh-reece,” just like the last name of Cyd Charisse.

    1. I grew up in Fall River, and we called it “sher-eece,” too. That’s the Americanization of the Azorean pronunciation: “shah-rdeece.” The proper (meaning the standard dictionary) pronunciation is “show-rdee-soo.”

      1. I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college with many people from New Bedford and Fall River. Also folks from Rhode Island. They all pronounce it “sher-eese.” I learned on a trip to Portugal that Portuguese language “swallows” final vowels, therefore, the pronunciation “sher-eese” is proper. This is similar to the Italian pronunciation of “regothe” for “ricotta” in certain dialects.

        1. Hey, Jane. It’s not exactly “sher-eese.” It comes closest to that in the Azores; their dialect flattens the sounds a bit. But even there, the “r” has a bit of a “d” sound. After many of the islanders immigrated to the States, the Americanization of the word smoothed the sound even more.

          When I studied Portuguese in Lisbon while researching my book, the professor I worked with said that it is indeed common to drop the last vowel of a word in Portuguese, but that doesn’t mean it’s the correct pronunciation. (Think of the word “going.” Most of us say “goin’,” but that doesn’t make it accurate.) And while many drop the last vowel, they’re also dropping the last syllable. Chouriço has three syllables. The below is taken from a Portuguese dictionary. Hope this helps!

          chou·ri·ço
          substantivo masculino
          1. [Culinária] Enchido de carne de porco ou de sangue de porco, farinha, etc., com gorduras e temperos.

      2. Yeah, Fall River knew I couldn’t be the kinky fr guy wondering what the dif was. We’re a very Portuguese community and live our food.

      3. Exactly. I am of Azorean heritage–parents are from New Bedford and we pronounced it….”sure dees.” Linguiça is another sausage, they are not the same….”sure dees: is spicier than linguiça….love your blog :*

        1. Christine, thanks! Yeah, some places chouriço is spicer, other places, linguiça is spicer. What makes it even harder is that now in Fall River you can get mild, medium and hot chouriço. The same with linguiça!

      4. David, I’m late to this conversation, but this is exactly the answer I’ve been looking for. My family has always pronounced it “shah-rdeece”, but recently I began to question whether our pronunciation is correct. My great grandparents were born in the Azores, but my grandmother was born in the U.S., so I wondered if our pronunciation had changed over time. That being said my grandmother speaks fluent Portuguese and the pronunciation in general is strange. Google translate pronounces it like “shoriso” and another site has it as “shoreece”, but this is the first place I’ve seen with the d sound. I live in Boston now, where the only brand I ever see is Gaspar’s, but I have a lot of family around Bristol and Warren.

        1. Hi Kyle, I had to jump into this discussion. I’m not Portuguese but lived in Bermuda for a number of years. There is a large population from the Azores and to my untrained ear, it always sounded liked they were saying sha-deesh. When I moved back to states and tried to find this sausage, no one knew what I was looking for as the spelling didn’t correspond to the pronunciation to which I was accustomed. Dialects are a funny thing.

          Beth

        2. Kyle, my family is from the Azores, too. That complicates things because even today in Portugal there’s a significant difference in accents and dialects between the islands and the mainland. Add to that how American-born folks of Portuguese descent further change the pronunciation, and well, you have a very different-sounding language!

          As far as buying chouriço, think of Lopes Sausage Co. in Newark, NJ. You have to buy a largeer quantity to make the shipping worth it, but it’s some of the best sausage (and linguiça, paio, etc.) I’ve had state side.

          1. Please I can’t seem to find the online address/website where I can purchase chorizo, and other sausage products from Lopes Sausage Co. in Newark, New Jersey. I am willing to buy large quantity to rectify the shipping costs.

  2. Way to go David. You tell them who the boss is. Chorizo is very popular down in NC here because we do have so many Mexicans, but I have turned a few of our neighbors onto chouriço and linguiça and they will never go back. They love the patties, especially at breakfast. Portuguese Food RULES!!!!!

    Good luck with the sale of your new book. It’s been a long time coming, I can’t wait to get my copy. Need to order more meats from up north to enjoy the flavors and favorites.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Upload a picture of your dish