I was very much looking forward to the Brazilian food. Meat galore, avocados, the mysterious açai, caipirinhas and even the every day special, rice and beans, seemed so enticing. When I told my aunt, who had lived in Rio for many decades, that I wanted to do a food tour, she told me not to bother. I was a bit deflated, but honestly, I didn’t quite believe her. Surely any part of South America had a foodie destination.
In addition, I was dying to go to Brazilian supermarkets and markets. In case you didn’t know, I am obsessed with foreign supermarkets and find little more interesting when I discover a new destination. Out of this obsession, Supermarket Souvenirs was born because I realized there is lots of awesomeness to be found there which often makes for perfect presents.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in Brazil. After my initial excitement to see Havaianas sold in supermarkets, I calmed down rather quickly when I realized that Havaianas are sold EVERYWHERE in Brazil. And most kiosks offer a better variety than the supermarkets.
There were no nice or weird sweets or snacks to discover, no unique beauty products, and even the coffee packaging looked just like it does at home.
So I used the supermarkets only to get my daily fix of coconut water which was sold by the litre and to buy mangos and maracujas.
Honestly, the mangos alone are worth a trip to Brazil, they are incredibly cheap and so very awesome. Pure mango heaven. One cannot live off mangos alone though and, unfortunately, I discovered that my aunt was right in regards to Brazilian food. Everything was fried, too doughy or too cheesy, often a combination of all three. Can you even imagine me complaining about too much cheese? Me neither, but I did when I saw it coming out of a squeeze bottle. Urgh.
Eventually, a mango a day couldn’t help my cravings anymore for something fresh, fresh, exciting. Açai should have taken the role as a healthy breakfast option, but was either too sweet to be healthy or too healthy to taste good. Usually, I ended up with the too sweet version which made for a great berry sorbet snack, but not for a good breakfast bowl. When I tried it once topped with granola and fruit I ended up with a brain freeze after a few spoon fulls (it is usually served in a frozen slushie form!).
Rio was different and I had two wonderful meals full of flavor and local ingredients at Zaza Bistro and Zuka. But I guess they just weren’t representative of what the rest the country had to offer and a once off treat I couldn’t afford to repeat.
So I was excited to learn about Acarajé, a “delicacy” from Bahia and the Brazilians favorite street food snack. It is basically a falafel made out of black-eyed peas filled with different sauces, veggies and, in my case, boiled, unpeeled shrimps. Let’s just say, that while I don’t mind traveling far and in a freezing cold train for an awesome dish, I do mind unpeeled shrimps and slimy vegetables without seasoning.
So what to eat when in Brazil you will ask now and give me pleading looks. Here is my list tiny list of must-eats in Brazil for you:
one Mangos. Because see above.
three Thai food at Thai Brazil in Paraty. Yeah, I know that is a bit weird being a Brazil tip and all, but it was seriously good Thai food and you know how picky I am with my Thai food.
four Brigadeiros. They are pralines and if they are homemade absolutely delicious. If you can get your hands on a coconut version, I reckon you should buy a few. They are the original Raffaelo. Of course, no picture as they always kept on disappearing rather quickly.
five Caipirinhas. Dah! Horrible legend has it that it was once invented for the slaves as they would suffer from only drinking cachaça. By adding limes and sugar, it would basically become a more nutritious meal. I am not sure if the legend is true or not, but you can definitely live of Caipirinha that much I know.