Friday, November 30, 2007

Things We Ate On The Street: Brazil

To be honest, Brazil promised a bit more than it offered in terms of street food. The selection was wide, to be sure, but there were more culinary disappointments than we were accustomed to. Of course, we may have just hit vendors on an off day, you never know.

When we got to Bahia, we were eager to try the acaraje (fried balls of manioc with shrimp and curry tucked inside), but they didn`t prove to be solid crowd pleasers. Equally, the much-anticipated round coconut treats ended up being a bit too sickly sweet for our taste. And the Brazilian penchant for Halls (you know, the cough medicine lozenges) eluded us, but they were sold on every corner like candy.

Don`t get us wrong, there were more than a few winners. Cafezinho, a strong, sweet, dark concoction wheeled around in little carts and served up by the thimbleful, kept us going until the wee hours with its delicious caffeinated bliss. In fact, pretty much all of the drinkable treats were divine. Including, of course, the immensely addictive caipirinha (sugar-cane based cachaca, lime, sugar, and ice) and its refreshingly rehydrating counterpart, agua de coco (coconut water). There was an amazing selection of sucos (fresh juices) all over the country---acerola (an Amazonian berry with lots of antioxidants), guava, mango, cupuacu (an unidentified Amazonian fruit with a creamy sweet soft taste), passion fruit...we did our best to try them all. Sometimes they were mixed with alcohol (batida), a refreshing way to watch the sun go down. The one that always had us coming back for more was acai, a purplish goo often served with granola that tastes much better than it sounds. Eric had one every single day in Jericoacoara. Kathleen also made the delicious mistake of trying a capeta in Jeri. It was a milkshake-like cocktail made with guarana, an Amazonian extract that made her heart race and kept her up for hours. Eric dubbed it ´plant-meth´ and forbade her from ordering it again.

Popcorn, tapioca treats, and brigadeiros (a fudgey brownie rolled in chocolate sprinkles) rounded out the delicious ways Brazilians fed their sweet tooths. And our favorite street treat, discovered just two days before we left the country, were late-night crepes. While not particularly Brazilian, as they were sold by a soft-spoken French hippie who wandered the streets of Sao Luis after dark, they were insanely good. We dubbed him the Gentle Crepe Man, as he had long hair neatly tucked back, doe eyes, and an earnest sales pitch. We did not feel gentle towards him, however, when he ran out of chocolate crepes before he got to us on our last night. Come to think of it, the street food was pretty damn good. Maybe just avoid the acarajes.

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