May 12

Making Tapioca from scratch



Have you ever made fire the old fashioned way? You know, by rubbing two sticks together or using some other cunning bush-craft technique? I haven’t done it myself, but it appeals to me greatly. I like the idea of doing it at least once just to prove that I can and also to experience the magic of what is really quite an amazing process when you stop to think about it. After that I expect I’ll be happy to go back to using a lighter or matches.

I’ve noticed recently that my will to do things from scratch has been extending into the culinary world too. I’m not quite ready to butcher a cow’s carcass, but I wouldn’t rule it out one day. For now I’ll content myself with smaller achievements – like tapioca extraction!

For those who don’t know, tapioca is the starch that is extracted from the cassava root. Cassava goes by many names – manioc and yuca are two of the most  common and in Brazil we have (at least) three: mandioca, aipim and macaxeira. Tapioca starch can be used to thicken sauces in much the same way as corn starch (known as ‘cornflour’ in the UK, fécula or amido de milho here in Brazil). It can also be used to make a delicious pancake known as beiju de tapioca or just tapioca. They’re a big hit with most people who try them.

Most of us buy our tapiocas from street vendors or market stalls – whether topped with something sweet or savoury, it’s a delicious and satisfying snack (you can also buy the hydrated starch powder in supermarkets so you can make your own tapiocas at home). Until recently there had always been a missing step in my knowledge and experience of this operation – how do you extract the tapioca starch from the cassava?

Turns out it’s pretty easy and rather a fun little project – here’s what you do:


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May 05

Eat Rio meets Chief Boima!


Cheif Boima.
All images in this post are taken from Boima’s Press Photos set on Flickr.


It’s been a while since we’ve had a musically-themed post on Eat Rio so I’m delighted to return to the subject today. Recently life has been a big whirl of food tours, writing gigs and a few other bits and pieces thrown in – that hasn’t left me much time for music. Luckily, not so long ago, the music came to me!

Boima Tucker booked an Eat Rio Food Tour with us back in February as his parents were visiting. Despite taking bookings from people from all over the world I don’t  think I’d ever seen the name Boima before and my curiosity got the better of me. After a little Googling I found that Boima is also known as Chief Boima and (amongst other things) is a Sierra Leonean-American music producer, DJ and writer who is currently living in Rio.

Although his food tour was guided by my fellow guide Angela, I managed to grab a few words with Boima at the end of the tour and then followed up later with an interview (completed on 30th March – yes, I’ve been busy!).

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Apr 16

Recipe: Dadinhos de Tapioca com Queijo


A few members of the International Club of Rio (InC) discussing their latest events and fundraising activities.


It occurred to me the other day that I’ve changed quite a lot since I came to Brazil. It’s hard to know how much of that change has been due to actually being in Brazil and how much it’s been just the natural process of getting older or various other possible factors. But regardless of the reason(s), the extent of the change really hit home a couple of weeks ago when I found myself giving a talk to around 50 members of the prestigious International Club of Rio (InC) – currently in its 50th year.

Late last year one of my food tour guests, Susan, mentioned that she was a member of this group which aims to create a community of English speakers in Rio. The group (formed of many different nationalities including Brazilians) gets together for social events, helps newcomers settle in and raises funds for philanthropic activities and services. “We’d love it if you came along to one of our meetings and gave us a talk about how you came to Brazil and some background on Brazilian food,” she said. “Our guest speakers usually speak for about an hour”.

Now if this proposition had been put to the old Tom who lived in London you can be sure he would have run a mile! I was never a big fan of public speaking – even a 10 minute presentation to a handful of work colleagues used to give me palpitations back in those days. But with hardly a moment’s hesitation I found myself agreeing to Susan’s suggestion and a couple of months later I was standing in front of a large group of women of all ages and telling them my story. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming and I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed the entire experience. I don’t suppose it’s really for me to say, but it felt like the group enjoyed the presentation too (at least they laughed in all the right places and gave me lots of positive feedback afterwards). How times change.


I first tried these tasty, cheesy ‘dice’ in Café do Alto in Santa Teresa.


A couple of days before the talk, it occurred to me that it might be fun to make something for the audience to eat while I spoke. I guess the idea was that even if they hated my presentation at least some tasty food might put them in a forgiving mood. The response on the day was so positive and I had so many requests for the recipe that I ended up promising to put it up on the blog. So here it is:

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Mar 17

Junta Local – A food event in Rio that actually works!


I’ve had some very disappointing experiences with culinary events held in Rio. Not long after we moved to Santa Teresa, Mrs Eat Rio and I were really excited to hear that there was a kind of ‘eating market’ event being held in the nearby neighbourhood of Lapa. Various restaurants and other food producers would be selling small dishes at stalls – it sounded like the perfect way to sample lots of different dishes/ingredients and simultaneously have a fun and gluttonous day out. In short: just my cup of tea.

We skipped down the hill with empty stomachs and high expectations. Then we saw the line and our hearts sank. There must have been nearly 500 people waiting, the line snaking up through the Lapa Arches and then doing that miserable switch-back thing that tells you you won’t be getting in any time soon. With the heat of the afternoon sun beating down on us, we decided to find our culinary entertainment elsewhere.

Fast forward to late 2014 and the culinary events that everyone was talking about revolved around one thing: an exciting ‘new’ concept called Food Trucks. It may have taken a while for food trucks to reach Rio, but the idea still held quite a thrill for me. I was picturing amazing pulled pork buns, kimchi slaws, artisanal beers, kickass cocktails and a million other foodie clichés tasty treats.

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Feb 27

Dangerous fun in the skies over Niterói


Long exposure of a plane taking off into the night sky over Guanabara Bay with Niterói in the background.


Have you ever had one of those moments when you saw something so weird that you just couldn’t explain it? A few years ago I had such a moment when I was looking out over Guanabara Bay towards Rio’s near neighbour, Niterói. The night sky above the bay is often pretty busy – passenger jets taking off and landing at Santos Dumont airport, helicopters buzzing around, perhaps the odd fireworks display or some beams of light coming up from a concert somewhere. However, on this occasion I spotted something quite different.

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Feb 09

Balas Baianas – ‘sugar glass’ coated coconut candy



Did I ever mention how much I love Rio’s street markets? Hmm, only about 20 times in the last year I suppose… Still, I’m sure that anyone who’s had the pleasure will agree that they’re utterly awesome. I visit these feiras da rua at least 3 or 4 times a week and although most of the markets are fairly similar, there are always a few variations depending on which location/day of the week you happen to be visiting.

One of my favourite markets is held in Glória on Thursdays and that’s all down to the availability of a rather delicious bala (candy / sweet / lolly) (USA / UK / Aus). Regular readers will know that I am not a sweet-toothed person – when it comes to Brazilian ‘classics’ like brigadeiro and quindim, I tend to agree with Jamie Oliver – and yet this item of confectionery has me hooked. It’s a sweet, creamy coconut centre surrounded by a thin, glass-like coating of caramel-candy. Adriana, the woman who sells these balas, calls them Balas de Coco, but that name is also used for another candy which is quite different, so I’ll be sticking with the alternative term, Balas Baianas.

In the interests of being self-sufficient, I decided to have a go at making these sweets myself and it turns out they’re not that tricky.

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Jan 30

Thanks for nothing


A sneak peek at the new Eat Rio site! Coming soon soonish…


Afternoon all! Well, the new website is coming along nicely, but I’ve pretty much given up on the idea that it could be ready in time for carnival. In the meantime we’ll all just have to make do with the current, somewhat ‘busy’, layout.

Normally at this time of year I have just one thing on my mind: Carnival. The official start of carnival is just 2 weeks away, but there are already plenty of pre-carnival events going on such as technical rehearsals at the Sambodrome on weekends and various blocos dotted around town. With carnival come turistas, most of them estrangeiros and as most of these foreign tourists don’t speak Portuguese, they have a bit of a challenge on their hands.

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Jan 20

Taking Brazilian cuisine to New York with #SkypeMoments


Ah well, so much for my high hopes of two posts on a Friday. I was actually kept very busy on Friday night by a rather exciting project. For anyone who hasn’t read my previous posts on the subject, some time ago I became Skype’s ‘Brand Ambassador’ for food. They have quite a few different Brand Ambassadors – travel, photography, sports and film to name a few (see the full list here).

In the build-up to Christmas, the good people at Skype got Frank Bell (Skype’s Music Ambassador) and me together to come up with a plan. The idea was to stage some kind of fundraising event that would involve music and food as part of Skype’s ‘Social Good‘ project. We eventually decided to host a dinner party at Haven’s Kitchen in New York. Frank would be performing live, both on his own and also accompanied by a collaborator over Skype. I was given the task of designing the menu for the night and Skyping in to oversee the preparation on the night and also to say hello to the guests.

Of course I’ve put menus together in the past – I guess every time any of us have guests over for a meal we have to decide on a series of things to eat, right? But this was a different proposition. My menu was going to be prepared by a professional chef (David Mawhinney) and his team and served to around 40 influential New Yorkers who had been selected to attend the event. I was definitely feeling the pressure.


David Mawhinney of Haven’s Kitchen doing his thing.

I decided to opt for a menu inspired by Brazilian cuisine – I have always thought that many of Brazil’s best dishes are better suited to chilly winters than stifling summer heat, so New York in the depths of winter seemed perfect. Here is the final menu:

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Jan 16

A Chowzter Balti Mission in Birmingham



To finish off the tales of our recent trip to England, I wanted to tell you about an unexpected culinary adventure that took Mrs Eat Rio and me to Britain’s second most populous city: Birmingham.

A couple of things to quickly say about Birmingham. Firstly, unlike its Alabama namesake, you don’t pronounce the “h” when saying the city’s name (here’s how it’s done – North American visitors: learn this before you arrive to avoid ridicule). Secondly, despite the recent report from satirical news agency, Fox News, non-Muslims are very welcome in the city. This is a constant source of relief to the 79% of Birmingham’s residents who are in fact non-Muslim themselves…

It was almost 2 years ago that I first met Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of Chowzter. Before long he had signed me up to curate the Chowzter list for Rio. I also do occasional writing jobs for them and take part in their awards events. Jeffrey is one of those people who is described by many as ‘larger than life’ – full to bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, particularly when it comes to great food from across the world. Jeffrey left his home in the US years ago and today lives in London, so when he heard we were in town he came up with a typically crazy plan. We would go on a Balti Mission to Birmingham.

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Jan 09

Christmas Culinary Adventures in London



Hi everyone! Remember me? Well I wouldn’t blame you if you’d forgotten all about Eat Rio – it’s been a shameful 4 weeks since my last post. I’ve never left it that long before and such a long hiatus deserves an explanation. How about tell you what’s been going on since this time last month?


Eat Rio Food Tours


Going from strength to strength. Eat Rio Food Tours are currently sitting at #14 in TripAdvisor’s list of activities in Rio!

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