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The Cult of Bimbi in Portugal

Meravista Property

The Portuguese don’t really “do” ready meals, and that’s a good thing. However, last week we found out a bit of a secret that some expats may not be aware of; not all of the delicious dishes of feijoada (bean stew), arroz de pato (duck rice) and bacalhau com natas (cod in cream) are the result of hours slaving in the kitchen, nor indeed are all of the tasty cakes. Plenty of this food is in fact produced by a clever machine with something of a cult status in Portugal, and also, as it turns out, in Italy.

The Bimbi machine, known as the Thermomix in some countries, is an extraordinarily clever kitchen gadget that weighs, chops, sautés, cooks, steams, and even cleans itself.

Bimbi Machine in Portugal

Bimbi Machine in Portugal

This amazing little machine allows you to, quite literally, pour in fresh ingredients, program it, and await delicious “home cooked food.” It can produce bread dough in minutes, complicated chef-style sauces in seconds, and even make ice creams and sorbets.

There’s a good chance you won’t have heard of it, as it isn’t for sale in shops, and is only sold via direct sales reps, one of whom we crossed paths with over Christmas.

As an avid cook I admit to being slightly tempted by this machine despite its jaw-dropping price of nearly 1000 euros!

Since our demonstration, I have done plenty of online research about this clever gadget, which has in fact been available in various guises for several decades. Bimbi machines actually have a huge cult following, and, to my surprise, they are used in the kitchens of many top international chefs, and are especially popular (apparently) in the galley kitchens of luxury yachts.

Sadly for the sales rep, trying to persuade us to buy something while we are still licking our financial wounds from Christmas is rather poor timing, but I can’t help but think I may give in and buy one of these at some point. The main reason for this is that it will make us cook with fresh ingredients even on the days when we are too tired and jaded to do much beyond eating something lazy and unhealthy from Iceland!

However, I have one key misgiving: I adore cooking, and I especially love improvising, adapting, and tasting as I go. Trusting all of this to a machine makes me fear that the Bimbi could do for cooking what iTunes and Youtube has done for music. Although I can now listen to pretty much any song in the world within a matter of seconds, I fondly miss the hours spent trawling record shops. Similarly, while the Bimbi could allow us to pick hundreds of foods from its extensive recipe book, and have them made to perfection with no effort, could it not take the fun and the soul out of cooking? If it could, then I’m afraid I don’t really want one.

Have you got a Bimbi / Thermomix? What do you think?

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14 Responses to “The Cult of Bimbi in Portugal”

  • Tracey Hand:

    I’m fairly sure that none of our Portuguese friends could possibly afford such a thing as its probably 2-3 months wages for them!
    The idea doesn’t even tempt me. I enjoy my kitchen too much too.
    While it might be handy once a week or so (on the real ‘CBA’ days) you can bet that, once owned, it’s used far more than that!
    I’ll stick to my emergency fish fingers ‘n’ chips meal and enjoy my own meals the rest of the time.

    £1000 though! Can you imagine?!

  • JC:

    No worry, Bimbi won’t replace all your cooking, in fact,
    there are small set of cooking that Bimbi won’t help.
    But for soaps and cakes there isn’t anything better.

    I do believe that price is very high for what it is,
    but having one I now can’t live without it.

    Don’t expect also to safe huge amounts of money,
    as some of the ingredients need to make some cooks surpass what you can buy in the supermarket already done (e.g bread).

    But knowing that you don’t have to worry about over-burn and make the cook always the same way (e.g. rice always good),
    are indeed life saver.

    Portuguese man convert to the Bimbi

  • dogotaro:

    Friends of mine locally have one of these machines & it really is quite brilliant…some of our group ask them to bring it along when they’re invuted as it produces some tricky things…such as Crème Brûlée…effortlessly & to perfection.
    Hardly worth buying if you’re a singleton but, even at the horrendous price, almost a ‘must’ for a family if you have the space for yet another gadget in the kitchen.

  • ave from milano:

    I finally broke down and bought one after lusting after it for over a year. The price is not as horrendous as it may seem, first of all, because it replaces a lot of other appliances: mixer, blender, ice crusher, bread machine (for kneading, not for baking), ice cream maker, steamer, rice cooker, flour mill, to name just a few. In addition, for all those times after work when you can’t face cooking supper, instead of ordering out, you can put steam up some rice and vegetables (and meat or fish too, if you’re so inclined) make a great soup or a great risotto without having to worry about clean-up. I bought mine on time, we make up our monthly payments just staying in rather than going out twice a month. If you’ve got any allergies or intolerances, or just love good food, the Thermomix will make rice flour, custard, cake flour, vegetable soup, sauces, just about anything you can think of, and you know what goes into them, as opposed to store-bought.

  • admin:

    Oh Ave, you’ve made me tempted to buy one again now!!!
    Best wishes,

    Ben

  • Alex:

    FYI- feijoada is from Brazil not Portugal :-)

  • admin:

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for reading. According to my wife’s research for a recent article (http://www.foodandwineportugal.com/2013/01/04/the-a-to-z-of-portuguese-food-part-2/), feijoada actually originated in Portugal and was exported to Brazil ?

    Best wishes,

    Ben

  • Susana:

    This machine is very recent and the majority of people still make all those dishes the old faction way. It helps? Of course just like a bread machine but if you like to cook and you know how nothing substitutes a meal made with Love!!

  • admin:

    Hi Susana,

    I agree that nothing substitutes a meal made with love! Although the Bimbi machine does look amazing and no doubt can save a lot of time when making certain dishes, I still enjoy cooking things the old fashioned way.

    Best wishes,

    Louise

  • mmvb:

    I am particularly amused by the message left by Tracy Hand in the beginning of last year, where she condescendingly states that no Portuguese friends of her could possibly afford such a machine. I understand that some 35.000 were sold in Portugal in 2012 alone. The machine is not made to replace elaborate cooking by kitchen afficionados. It is very useful for people who like to eat good quality meals but who have little time and space to prepare them at home. The machine is also quite compact, so I am not surprised that it is used in yacht’s galleys.
    M

  • Cláudio Brandão:

    Hello, im a Portuguese guy and I may confirm that Bimbi is very well knowed here, but, not every Portuguese have one ;) There are some competition in the market (Yami, Cocksy) that are cheapper and have the same purpose has Bimbi. The other thing i would like to share is that, most Portuguese families makes fresh food every day and most of them dont use any machines. This kind of machines are very popular among young couples but not among old folks, those prefer vintage style :) Last but not the least, Feijoada is original from Portugal has are most of Brazilian food, we can´t forget that it was the Portuguese that colonized Brazil in the 15 century. I hope i could be helpfull :) And by the way, I have a Yami machine and its AWESOME ;p

  • admin:

    Thank you Cláudio,

    I have seen the Yami advertised recently and wondered how good it is – I am glad you are enjoying your machine :-)

    Your point about the generational divide between those using machines like Bimbi is really interesting and you are absolutely right that the majority of families make fresh food daily using traditional methods.

    Thank you for your useful comments :-)

    Best wishes, Louise

  • Joao:

    The Bimbi machine has been around for decades. My family has one for 6 years now and it is used every day. It’s our preferred soup maker (20 minutes! from scratch) and can make most dishes that aren’t fried or roasts and complements just about any cooking you can think of or buy. It lasts a lifetime with intensive use. There are people using the older model which is over 10 years. It’s almost 1000€ but it lasts forever with little to no maintenance and turns busy people into home chefs. In the UK it’s called Thermomix and it’s not so popular because the brits love their fries and roasts and can still afford to buy ready made. By the way, Ben, I also like to improvise and I rarely follow a recipe entirely. Once you get used to the machine it won’t stop you from doing whatever you want. That’s why Michelin chefs own them. Regards.

  • admin:

    Hi Joao,

    Many thanks for sharing your experience of the Bimbi. It’s interesting to hear that you can improvise with it once you are used to it, so that you can still experiment and be creative in the kitchen.

    That’s a great point about how long the machine lasts, as well. Although the cost is high, it is good value when spread out over so many years.

    Best wishes, Louise :-)

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