Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Iscas com Elas - Brazilian Diner Lingo

Adam and Eve on a raft
According to Wikipedia, diner lingo is a uniquely American verbal slang used by waitresses and cooks in hashouses and truck stops to communicate with each other. Wikipedia says diner lingo "is virtually unknown outside the US." Some wonderful examples of diner lingo can be found on the Wikipedia page devoted to the subject and on a website called dinerlingo.com - phrases like "looseners" for prunes, "English winter" for iced tea, "side of Joan of Arc" for french fried, and our personal favorite, "Adam and Eve on a raft" for two poached eggs on toast.

Though the USA might be the only English-speaking country to speak diner lingo, inventive names for restaurant dishes don't only exist there - Rio de Janeiro's restaurants are famous for their own version of diner lingo. You might call it " gíria da lanchonete." One of the most famous and most wide used examples in Brazil is a dish called "iscas com elas". It's difficult to translate into English, but the idea is something like "the bait and the girls."

Iscas com elas is basically liver and onions, a diner and luncheonette specialty both in Brazil and the USA. In this case, the liver is cut into thin strips before frying (the bait) and served with fried rings of onion (the girls). The dish, and its name, originated in Rio de Janeiro's 80-year-old À Lisboeta restaurant, where it's been on the menu since the day the restaurant opened. Located in Rio's central business district, À Lisboeta is packed every lunch hour with bankers, accountants, bureaucrats, blue-collar and office workers, all wanting a substantial, satisfying lunch - and many of those end up ordering iscas com elas. It's one of the most popular dishes on the menu, even after all these years.
Iscas com elas

À Lisboeta doesn't just serve plain old iscas com elas, though. For those who are really hungry, there's a  more substantial version called iscas com elas and elas or "the bait and the girls and the girls," which means that the plate not only includes the strips of liver (the bait) and the fried onion rings (the girls), but also boiled potatoes (the other girls).

Next post, we'll publish À Lisboeta's recipe for iscas com elas.


  1. "Iscas com elas" is the name of a very traditional portuguese recipe. This recipe was already very popular in Lisbon in the XIX century. Here we cut the liver in fine slices. The liver is marinated with whine, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper and 12h later fried. The liver is fried and served with boiled potatoes and the sauce made with the marinade.

    1. Thanks for the comment - the Portuguese version of iscas com elas sounds delicious!

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