One of the first things you may notice, once you hit the roads of Rio de Janeiro, is just how…voluptuous…the people are. There’s certainly no denying that Brazilians LOVE to eat; their food obsession is about as fervent as that of any Mediterranean country although it must be mentioned that it is also a little on the heavier side, if you catch our drift. The sheer amount of foreign influence from every corner of the globe has ensured this South American gem boast a rich cuisine brimming with creams and sauce. Brazilians also love all that is fried, double-fried and swimming in oceans of palm oil”
This could explain the gorgeous curves.
Step out to eat in Rio and you’ll soon discover that food is everywhere; restaurants, cafes and take-away carts line every major avenue, minor road and hidden alleyway. Whilst finding delectable morsels of yumminess may not be all that hard, it helps to know what it is you should be looking out for. Brazilian cuisine may well be characterized by its regional diversity, yet in Rio you’ll have the best chance to flavour the country’s most delicious dishes.
Look out for the following staples when out and about hungry in Rio and feast your taste buds ad infinitum.
Brazil’s national dish, which dates back to the days of Portuguese colonization and slavery, incorporates some of the most obscure animal body parts we never knew existed. Originally, this stew of beans, pork and spices was rather harmless, yet considering it soon became the staple for slaves it started to include all the bits and bobs which the poorer people would never consider discarding.
Nowadays, this tradition continues and the Brazilian feijoada can contain blood sausage, intestines, liver, tongue and all sorts of unmentionables. Surprisingly, this is actually an incredibly delicious dish and we strongly urge everyone to try it during their stay in Rio. Cooked for hours on end in a clay pot, the truly lip-smacking stew is usually served with side dishes of plain boiled rice and a few slices of oranges, just to sweeten things up a bit. If you insist on doing as we do and not as we say, then go ahead and order a strong and refreshing Caipirinha to complement your meal! You know…for cultural enlightenment and all.
We had the good intention of being a little more detailed on this topic, but there is not much point. MEAT is the order of the day in Rio so all you carnivorous beasts better prepare yourselves for a mammoth case of indigestion.
All sorts of meat, cooked in all sorts of ways and smothered in all sorts of spices and sauces is what you’ll find served in Rio’s best churrascarias. These BBQ establishments are so intent on feeding you senseless that they come complete with waiters who hound you incessantly to pick a serving of whatever animal-on-a-skewer they happen to be walking around with. Grab a seat and turn your plate ticket on the green side and simply sit back and be served! Pork, beef, lamb, chicken, wild boar and sometimes even alligator come hot off the coals and, although churrascarias also offer side-servings of salads and vegetables, we can assure you they are for decoration purposes only. No-one really eats those.
Ready to explode? Simply turn your card to its red side and this should be deterrent enough for the meat-servers; although sometimes an emphatic ‘no mas!’ (no more!) may also be required.
We should all be quite aware of the nutritional benefits of the humble coconut and if rate of consumption is anything to go by, we can also all assume that Brazilians are among the healthiest people on earth. Eaten in chunks on the beach or its sweet milk drunk all day long on hot summer days, the coconut is by far the most consumed fruit in the country.
Stroll along Rio’s beachfront and you’ll no doubt come across a plethora of stalls offering chilled coconut pieces or refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails. You’ll find it grated over fruit salad (ambrosia de melao), sprinkled on desserts (beijinhos and flan) or as the main ingredient in many meat and fish stews. One of our favourite would have to be bobo de camarao, a simply melt-in-your mouth shrimp and coconut dish that has been known to make grown men weak at the knees!
Sushi and sashimi
As ridiculous as this may sound, we do urge you to hear us out!
Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan and thus it is here that you’ll find the most authentic and freshly made sushi and sashimi in the entire continent. Rio is simply brimming with superlative sushi bars and this option becomes all the more invaluable if you happen to be travelling around South America for a while. Should you need a reprieve from the intense Latino flavours and heavily cooked dishes opt to lunch or dine on optimum fresh and crispy raw fish instead.
Feasting on the side of the road is not merely for the frugal traveller. Some of the most traditional dishes and snacks are best found this way, and the fact that you can fill up on a little more than $5 just adds to the appeal. Look out for pastry pockets (pastels) filled with meat, cheese or the ubiquitous ham & cheese combo as well as tapioca, a divine pancake made from manioc flour.
Look out for carts selling drinks like guarana, aqua de coco and caldo de cana (sugarcane juice) and enjoy a well-rounded eating experience in the streets of Rio.
Where to feast
Rio’s most visited, populated and famous beachside suburbs are home to the city’s best restaurants and it is here that you should head to flavour the best food. Copacabana and Ipanema boast a wide array of eateries to suit all budgets with specialised churrascos and feijoada joints lining the pavements of both hoods.
Money-conscious travellers and all those who prefer to try a little of everything should look out for Rio’s most popular restaurants: the ‘eat-by-the- kilo’ joints. Don’t worry…you won’t be forced to eat by the kilo we assure you! The pay-by-the-kilo restaurants are just brilliant and offer you the change to flavour many different dishes in one sitting; simply fill up your plate from the varied buffet table, pay for the weight and enjoy with gusto!
Fried heaven, by Jota via Flickr
Feijoada via Wiki
Churrasco via Wiki
Coconuts to go, by Lee Edwin Coursey via Flickr
Plate of sushi & sashimi by Cornstalker via Flickr
Typical pastel via Wiki