Judging by the title, you could be forgiven if you thought that this post was about mosquitos preying on tourists. Maybe.
Instead, I’ll focus on some memorable food from my recent time in Brazil. It was mostly to check out Iguazu Falls, but I also had long layovers in Manaus and Rio de Janeiro.
However, since my first visit to Brazil in 2007, it occurred to me that I still didn’t know much about the culinary landscape in that massive country. Sure, there’s the crowd-pleasing açaí, and the churrascaria that makes you walk at a 90-degree angle after indulging a bit too much, but what else is there? On the other hand, I could take the train to Newark, New Jersey (seriously) to find out…but that would be too easy…
As I mentioned above, my layover in Manaus – the largest city in the Amazon basin – was not only long, but also from 22:30 ’til about 05:00. With those hours, and without having visited the city before, I decided to wander around the mostly deserted streets looking for snacks to check off the list.
Finally, I ended up at some casual late-night outdoor cafeteria with a welcome list of tropical fruit juices and shakes. Though acerola was tempting, it’s rather easy to find added to drinks in Japanese convenience stores. So, cupuaçu – sem/não açúcar (without/no sugar, as usual) was the easy choice.
It wasn’t a terribly memorable flavor though. Somewhat creamy, slightly sweet and sour, but nothing too inspired. What the heck, Amazon?? Even the Brazilian tap water had more going on.
Pão de queijo, aka cheese bread, usually made from cassava flour and Minas cheese.
This is by no means an ad for the above chain; it wasn’t good. However, it’s my only surviving photo of pão de queijo, taken at a time where sleep had been missing from my schedule for nearly 36 hours.
In short, they’re savory. They’re addictive. They’re unhealthy. Demorou! (Heck, yeah!)
No wonder they made it onto the list.
Brigadeiros. Supposedly, they were created at a time when fresh milk and sugar were hard to come by, so someone decided to mix sweetened condensed milk, butter, and chocolate. But then, what was in the chocolate?
In any event, these too, are difficult to stop eating. If they were all mashed together into one giant pie, I wouldn’t have even tried them this time. Damn their convenient take-away size.
A couple of friends had mentioned that I should check out a casual Rio chain called polis sucos to have a glass of açaí. It just so happened that I had only enough money left for the açaí, vegetarian tapioca (flour) sandwich and metro ride back to my hotel, so that worked out.
After trying it a few times during that trip, I really didn’t take to açaí. The taste was akin to a preppy berry, whatever that means. The flavor transported me more to the Pacific Northwest of the US – which is usually a good thing for food – than to anywhere tropical, though it was by no means as dull as the cupuaçu. Also, the tapioca sandwich was grainy and probably has a cousin in sandpaper.
Thankfully, the exchange rate between US dollars and Brazilian reais was still favorable. Consequently, I had to try one of the all-you-can-eat barbecue places. In addition to the numerous cuts/types of meat, they also had some Lebanese/Syrian and Japanese items, likely due A) to the influences on Brazil by immigrants from those countries, and B) to common places of origin of tourists. The drink is cashew apple juice.
Do you think a comida foi na moral (the food was better than expected)? What would you try?