If you want to sample the strong flavors of Portugal, stop by Europa Supermarket in Mineola. While the densely packed store carries groceries imported from all over Latin America - particularly from Portuguese-speaking Brazil - pride of place goes to the distinctive foods of Portugal.
Foremost is salt cod, bacalhau, the preternaturally shelf-stable dried fish that enabled Portuguese ships to explore and conquer large swaths of the globe in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Maria Pereira, who owns Europa with her husband, Felismino, and his brother Rui, confided that the best salt cod is actually from Norway.
Beside the butcher's counter, Europa has a special table-mounted blade for cutting through the tough fish, which Rui demonstrated. Such a blade also would come in handy to cut broa de milho, the delicious Portuguese corn-and-wheat bread whose almost comic density has no real equivalent elsewhere in Europe. Maria said that one of her favorite uses for the broa is as an accompaniment to preserved seafood.Just opposite Europa's bread display is an array of little rectangular cans containing sardines, mackerel, horse mackerel, cod, scallops, octopus and squid.
Then there are the cured meats: linguiça, the famous smoked sausage, as well as its brethren chourico (spicier), salpiaco (fatter), morcela (made with blood), farinheira (made with flour) and presunto, the Portuguese ham that resembles Italian prosciutto but is smoked as well as salted.
As for vegetables, Europa sells potatoes by the 50-pound bag and lots and lots of collard greens, either whole in bunches or finely shredded, for caldo verde soup.