Carnival in Rio means different things to different people. Some look forward to the blocos which make up the Carnaval de Rua (street carnival), while others just want to get the hell out of town until it’s all over. Then there is another group for whom carnival is all about the Sambódromo and the competition between the samba schools. The people in this latter group often support a particular samba school in a way more commonly associated with football fans.
Personally I can’t pretend that it bothers me much who wins, but in the same way that I’ve picked a football team to nominally support (Botafogo), I’ve also picked a samba school – Portela. And the main reason I picked Portela was that it shares a home with Feira das Yabás.
The Feira das Yabás is a street market based in Oswaldo Cruz in Zona Norte and it’s all about the music and food of the black community of Rio.
Something like 16 barracas (stalls) are set-up and run by matriarchs of the community, some of them well into their 80s! These octogenarian ‘yabás’ serve up some of the best traditional carioca food I’ve ever tasted. We are talking classic dishes here such as mocotó, rabada com angu, galinha com quiabo (chicken with okra), carne seca com aipim (jerked beef with manioc), bolinhos de abóbora com carne-seca (pumpkin fritters stuffed with jerked beef) - if you haven’t heard of or tasted these dishes then you need to get involved!
The Feira das Yabás runs every second Sunday of the month in Praça Paulo da Portela, Madureira. Unless you have a lot of money to spend on taxis, the best way to get there is to take the metro to Centro do Brasil and then get the train to Oswaldo Cruz (around 15 stops on the red line – it takes around 30-40 mins). From there it is a short walk.
The feira opens at 13:00 and as well as all that lovely food, there is also music in the form of samba. Check out their Facebook page for more info.