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Ali – A Pakistani who enjoys Portuguese food

Ali, grocery store owner in Lisbon

It was in Portugal, where he lives for 15 years, that Ali discovered his talent for cooking. He worked at a restaurant on Av. da Liberdade and ensures that his vegetable quiche was a success. Now he works at Ali grocery store, near Church of St. Christopher, and when we asked ‘What do you like in Portugal’ he has no doubt: the friendliness of the people.

Although he was born in Pakistan, Ali has always been curious about Europe and the discovery started in Germany. “I went to see the country, but a friend of mine, who was already living in Portugal, invited me to visit him. It was in 2001”.

He ended up two months, then returned to Pakistan, and returned later because “I enjoyed the Portuguese,” he confesses with a laugh. “I have a business in Pakistan, electrical appliances, but I was getting very tired and Portugal is a more peaceful country.”

When he returned the second time, he was faced with unemployment, which forced him to return to Germany, where he worked six months in a pizzeria. But the cold made him return to Portugal, where he got a job in a restaurant. The experience working with pizzas, and the tips of a Portuguese cook, helped him to improve the technique and began cooking Portuguese dishes, such as “feijoada or cod à Brás”. And your favorite Portuguese dish? Ali has no doubts: “oh, I like anything that has no pig!” (laughs) But his favorite is cod à Brás.
In the restaurant, where he was nine years, he had permission to try other dishes, from Pakistani to Indian, such as chicken curry, but the dish that had more success was his vegetarian quiche. “Customers were very fond, I always made two quiches a day.”

One day he went on vacation to Pakistan for a month, ended up three months, and when he returned he had no place in the restaurant. That’s when he opened a grocery store in Mouraria in 2009, with his brother, and in 2012 they opened a larger space and he managed to bring the family to Portugal. “I live for 15 years in Lisbon and I do not know much of the city. I only visit the Castle one time. What I like most is the friendliness of the Portuguese.”