The Carioca Guide to Street Food

Some time back I picked up what is pretty much my favourite Brazilian food book. It is called Guia Carioca da Gastronomia de Rua (Carioca Guide to Street Food), the work of Sérgio Bloch, Ines Garçoni and Marcos Pinto, and it is brilliant!

Such a great book if you're into food and aren't afraid to try something away from the air-conditioned safety of a restaurant.


The book lists 19 street food vendors in Rio, covering all the major categories, from fruit salad on the beach to acarajé in Santa Teresa, caipirinhas in Lapa to empadas (little pies) in Guadalupe. For each vendor we take a look at the food they sell, find out a bit about the particular street or square that they frequent and there is an interview in which we learn about how the vendor came to be where they are today and what they like about their job.

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Corny Stop Motion

As I wandered home last night I passed a guy standing at a little metal cart selling sweetcorn (milho). This must be one of my favourite street foods – there’s just something pleasing about selling this as a quick snack. 


I know he doesn’t look it, but this guy was actually very friendly. It’s just when I took the photo (I did ask!) he put on his stern face.

Whereas most snacks are high in fat or sugar (or both!), here is a yummy snack that is relatively good for you. The sellers use the outer leaves of the corn as the wrapping, so there’s no need for plastic bags and all the usual packaging – once you’re finished you are only throwing away a biodegradable husk and some leaves! I wish it was more popular everywhere. 

However, last night I didn’t buy sweetcorn. I bought pamonha (sounds like pam-ON-ya). 

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Last weekend we had a friend from London to stay. This was fun, not just because our guest was nice and not only because she brought us all kinds of yummy goodies from home, but also because her presence pushed us into doing a whole bunch of sight-seeing things that we probably wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. We wandered around a favela, we went to see some samba (these guys) and spent a fair bit of time eating and drinking in Santa Teresa. 

One of the places we ended up was Armazém São Thiago, a really nice old bar that dates back to 1919. The bar itself does pretty yummy food, but even better than that, on Sundays there is a lady just outside the bar cooking Acarajé

A delicious bundle of spicy goodness. I am designating acarajé as an essential food – see the others in the list by clicking the ‘essential food’ label on the right (Photo: Leonardo Martins).


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The foods you have to try in Rio.

If someone asked me what I thought were the essential foods to try when coming to Rio, I would probably bore them to death with my list of personal favourites. Of course it’s a subjective, erm, subject. I know some of my favourite Brazilian dishes won’t be to everyone’s tastes. A good example would be Tacacá. I don’t think anyone would argue against it being delicious, but the mucus-like goma de mandioca will seriously challenge some people’s appetite. 

Remember this piece of awesomeness from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Well Tacacá is nothing like this. But at the bottom of the bowl you will find a substance may cause you to reminisce about the last time you had a cold…

But although the exotic dishes are pretty cool (well, I think so anyway), they aren’t the ones I’d describe as essential. The foods you have to try aren’t particularly fancy, but they are a part of everyday life and if I were a visitor, these are exactly the things that I would want to taste first. I’ve covered a few of them already: Pão de queijo, farofa, coxinha, pastel

Today I thought I’d tell you about one more.

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Pão de Queijo – cheesy goodness

When I visit a new country, one of the first things I do is get involved with the local foods. Regretfully not in a particularly methodical or scientific way, but by taking a more haphazard approach. I go to the places that look ‘local’, ask the taxi drivers about their favourite food, look for anything that looks interesting on street stalls and markets and generally just eat!
Some of my favourite Latin American foods: Arepas from Colombia…

…Tacos from Mexico…