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Taste Brazil | Street Foods
Feiras, meaning street markets or market fairs, dot the São Paulo city weekly from early morning till about 2pm on predetermined streets with old-fashioned snacks, casual cheap eats, and colourful personalities. Despite the sprawl of modernisation throughout Brazil, street markets have held their own, almost defiantly keeping firm to what has made Brazil, Brazil. There is something uniquely upbeat about walking down the streets here. You can eat your way down the street, back up, and you will still want to saunter down again, if not for more snacks, then for the carnivalesque atmosphere the street markets proudly exude. Let’s dig in.
These pasteis (pronounced as pah-stays) were sold at one of the 900 feiras in São Paulo. In Brazil, pastel (singular of pasteis) is a typical fast food dish and serves as an anytime treat at the beach or on the streets, as a mid-meal snack or even as a simple and quick lunch.
To make pasteis, thin pastry envelopes are wrapped around assorted fillings, then deep-fried in vegetable oil to produce an enticingly crispy and golden-brown pastry. The most common fillings are ground meat (usually beef), mozzarella, heart of palm, Catupiry cream cheese, chicken and small shrimps. Best served with garapa, a sugarcane juice that is divine with lemon and loads of ice.
Coxinha is the other famous street snack food, essentially shredded chicken and Catupiry cream cheese croquettes covered in dough and is traditionally made to shape like a chicken thigh. They remind me though of a cross between our local samosa and a plump curry puff!
Singapore and Brazil share a fondness for coconut-based dishes, and we fell in love with doce de coco, a coconut snack we tried at Mercado de São José in Recife. These are coconut pieces coated with caramelised sugar and fried to a satisfying crunch. It has to be one of our favourite street foods here!
At the same street stall tended by this young chap Lucimero (more on him later), you will find this quebra queixo, also known as the ‘jawbreaker’. From a distance, we thought it was pancake, but as he saw through the sheets, we realised it was a coconut-based hard candy, tasting very much like toffee!
At the beach, it always felt right to have a churro in hand. Everyone was doing so! Fried dough pastry, covered with sugar and cinnamon with an indulgent dip. We’ve never really liked churros, but this was crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. Looking back, it occurred to us that our hands were never really free – we were always holding one snack food or another. And honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Like coconut, corn is commonplace in Brazilian street food scene. Just a few stalls down from Lucimero’s was a nondescript stall selling cold corn soup (sopa is Portuguese for soup). Sweetish to taste, this is very much like corn chowder but refreshingly cold, to be topped with cinnamon powder or almost any desired toppings. We heard that corn and coconut chowder is a popular Brazilian home dish, and it certainly resonated with our local palate!
At Mercado in Recife, our hosts gaily brought us to sample yet another popular soup-based snack – sopa de feijão. I love how versatile this soup is! Commonly cooked with potatoes, cumin and salt, locals enjoy it with offals too with various toppings.
Soup is amazing that way. There is something so healing and inclusive about soup that connects all. Every culture, every country has a soup. Every soup has something for everyone. Here in Brazil, soup connects us all.
Açaí, the well-touted superfood with antioxidant and anti- inflammatory properties, has recently gained traction in Singapore. This Amazonian berry tastes divine in all its forms, and açaí juices are readily available in kiosks along the streets. In its thicker smoothie rendition topped with granola, the results are sublime and make for a very satisfying and wholesome snack! I can have this every day!
If you are still hungry after the açaí smoothie, go for the Pão de queijo. This is a Brazilian bread made with tapioca flour, light and fluffy and gluten-free with gooey cheese, very much like the mochi puffs we find in Singapore. Try stopping yourself from popping a few!
Tapioca is used plentifully and creatively in Brazil. Other than Pão de queijo, you can find many tapioca stands selling pastries, crepes, sweets and treats. We knew tapioca was a versatile ingredient, but Brazil’s varieties astound us. This tasty tapioca pancake snack was such a delight we decided to buy back the flour!
Along the beaches, we were intrigued by many vendors peddling these packets of snacks. Throes of beach-goers, especially children, would gather around the vendors, and before long, you can see the vendors smiling, with just a couple of yellow packs left in that big bag. We had to try them, even though we were all pretty stuffed by then. Made from raw tapioca, this is a snack every child growing up in Rio would have had, particu- larly by the beach. Long on charm, these snacks are still wildly popular amongst the adults, enjoying an almost-cult status of being the heritage snack in Brazil, very much like the icing gem biscuits we love in Singapore. The yellow packs contain the sweetish variety, while we prefer the savoury version in the white packs.
Fun fact: Brazilian convenience stores carry these snacks too, but in plastic sealed packaging, while those sold at the beach are unsealed in a paper pack. Not that it matters to any fan of these biscuits, we suppose!
Read more on SouperChef Anna’s travel to Brazil on our e-magazine. Download Here.
* This Souper Inspirations trip to Brazil is sponsored by our kind partners, Sadia Singapore, BRF and SATS-BRF (distributor of Sadia in Singapore). All opinions and photos are as always, ours.