How to Experience Lisbon’s “Illegal Chinese Food” Subculture


Photography by: Carly Krei

When I first heard about the illegal Chinese food scene upon arriving in Lisbon, I had questions. Most importantly, I wanted to go- like now. 

I’ll start off by saying that the food did not disappoint, and the ambience was exactly like I pictured upon hearing the words illegal Chinese food restaurant, known locally as “Chines clandestinos.”

The interior of the restaurant

So what exactly is illegal Chinese food? Chinese immigrants began officially running “restaurants” out of their own homes, which at the time of their conception was only known about by other Chinese immigrants.

The neighborhood that many of the Chinese found themselves in was Martim Monez, an area that feels dramatically different than the neighboring Chiado district.

When Chinese immigration began to boom in Lisbon in the late 90’s, they started to become quite popular especially as interest in international cuisine grew in Lisbon. However, they weren’t exactly the...