My favorite foods in Rio

I’ve been back from Brazil for over seventeen days and have only shared two stories with you (or three if you count this). There's just always so much to do, and on top of all the usual stuff, Daniel and I are about to buy our very first apartment. Talk about time-consuming! First there were the open houses and now that we've found something, there's all the back and forth with lawyers, brokers and inspectors. There's also the strict and sudden budget that's been forcing me to cook non-stop. I haven't been getting too creative, although this Chard Saffron Tart has appeared twice on my dinner table already. It's so good that I haven't missed overpriced restaurant meals one bit!

In fact, I’ve only eaten out three times since I've been back. One restaurant isn’t worth mentioning, the other I’m sure many of you already know about, and the third, a lovely little seafood shack with turqouoise walls, just four or five tables and wonderfully fresh and flavorful food, should be added immediately to your must-try list. And if you're pinching pennies like I am, you'll be happy to hear that it's BYOB.

But now, back to Brazil. I hope you’re not getting sick of my South American stories because I still have many to share. And I know, I know, at the rate I’m going, I’ll still be telling you about my trip come June. Which is why I’m planning to post a list of my favorite food-related things about Rio, one at a time, every day, for the next week or so. I’m going to start today by telling you about Brazilian streetside bake sales.

New York has countless vendors selling all sorts of food on the street -- pretzels, hot dogs, and those insanely sweet-smelling nuts to name a few –- but what we don’t have are homemade desserts sold bake sale-style.

On any given day, walking down the street in Rio, you’ll see a small, humble cart or two pushed by someone selling homemade cakes. The selection is always pretty much the same, and some carts are obviously better than others, but for someone as addicted to dessert as I am, it doesn't get much better than a bake sale on the street.

It’s not like there is a shortage of sweets in Rio or anything. In fact, the city reminds me a lot of Paris with its fresh bread and huge selection of addictive pastries. But your day just somehow gets so much better when you’re walking down the street, on your way to the beach or something, and you spot one of these mini bake sales. Usually it happens after you’ve already eaten an enormous meal and aren't even hungry, so you just go over, you know, to have a little look. And then almost instantly, you’re handing over 2 reais while reaching for a huge chunk of this.

Cuzcus, a Brazilian sweet made with tapioca, is the treat I always end up buying when I spot one of these carts. Similar in texture to mochi, it’s a sticky and chewy dessert that's sliced into thick, chubby squares. It tastes kind of bland on its own, but really perks up when topped with a generous drizzle of sweetened condensed milk (I always ask for extra) and some coconut flakes.

If you plan on being in Rio sometime soon, be on the look out for these sweets on the street and make sure you try one, some or all of them. I of course recommend the cuzcus.

See you tomorrow for #2 on my list of favorite foods in Rio!

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Anonymous said...

So glad that chard tart has been keeping you fed... And congrats on the apartment!!! I can't wait to hear more.

Lia said...

Luisa, I love the tart! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe -- it's a keeper. In fact, I'm eating this week's last slice right now. This time around, I used fresh mozzarella instead of parmesan and added in a bit extra for good measure.

Patricia Scarpin said...


It's so delightful for me to come here and see my country, my culture - my food - through your eyes. Amazing, really.

Your posts about Rio are always so tender and full of love!

I live in Sao Paulo and some dishes are different here, others are the same.

I don't know if you've had the opportunity to eat a Brazilian carrot cake drizzled with chocolate icing - I posted the recipe this morning, if you have a second to spare.

I don't want to make this comment very long, but I have to thank you for the lovely words about my blog on the other comment box and also for the link here - I'm so glad you feel this way!

I linked you there, too.

Tks, Lia!!

Anne Stesney said...

Hi Lia!

Now I really, really, really want to go to Brazil. All of the food you've shown looks so amazing.

Congrats on the apartment. It's so great to own a place! I can't wait to hear more about it.


Lia said...

Patricia, I really love Brazil and its food so much and want other people to learn all about it too. I've only been to Sao Paulo once, although it was there that I had my first pao de queijo (a very special occasion indeed!).

I checked out your carrot cake and it looks delicious. I've never tried it before, but your recipe has tempted me to make it.

And thanks for the link on your blog. I appreciate it!

Anne, you and Fred have to plan a trip to Brazil. It's such a romantic country and then of course there's all that good food. I'll fill you in on the apartment stuff when I see you in a few weeks.


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