Brazilian Chillies



Before I get going, I guess I should address the question of spelling. You know those super spicy peppers that make curries hot? Well there are a bunch of different spellings: chili, chile, chilli. According to Wikipedia, the word originates from the Nahuatl word “chīlli”, so I’m going with the chilli / chillies form.

Anyway, a little while back, my friend Patrick from Como Sur put me on to a pretty cool article at the Saveur website – a Chilli Pepper Guide listing more than 40 varieties. It’s pretty cool, with nice pictures and descriptions, but I noticed that only a couple of Brazilian varieties were on the list. Well, in the interests of filling in the blanks, I thought I’d give you my thoughts on a few of those fiery beauties that grace the pimenta stalls of Rio’s street markets.

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Micheladas and Cubanas



Well, time got away from me today – I was going to publish my final post on our trip to Mexico at around lunchtime, but then a bunch of other things came up and now the clock is striking 6pm. That final post will have to wait until tomorrow, but I’m still going to throw in a mini-post about one of my favourite Mexican treats: Micheladas and even better, Cubanas.

According to Wikipedia, the exact ingredients and definitions of a Michelada vary according to your location in Mexico, but in general we are talking about a beer mixed with lime juice, served in a salt/chilli-rimmed glass. Then a bunch of other extras are optionally added such as clamato (tomato juice with clam broth), chilli powder, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi sauce. The Cubana variation (which ended up being our favourite) tended to have loads of extra chilli sauce and extra spices and seasoning.

All this backs up the point I made in the previous post about peanuts – why have a boring old beer when you can have a spicy, sour, salty beer instead? Here were a few of our Michelada / Cubana highlights:

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These spices are nices!

With less than two weeks left in England, I’ve been starting to get a little panicky about all the outstanding items on my England to-do list. I spent most of last weekend traipsing all over London on a mammoth shopping trip, picking items that are either unavailable in Rio (Colman’s mustard, PG Tips and of course delicious Marmite) or massively expensive (electrical goods general).

One of the food things I miss most when I’m in Rio is Indian food and I had been meaning to go for a curry ever since I got back to London. With time running out I was starting to think I’d missed my chance until last Sunday when I had a stroke of luck. It happened to be a particularly freezing day and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and then I stumbled upon this rather amazing Indian food market!


There must have been around 30 stalls, clustered together close to the Southbank Centre, next to the Thames. The majority of them were selling food from various parts of India.


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Recently, I have received a number of messages from people curious to hear more about the various plants I grow in my window boxes (you can’t prove that this is a lie, so let’s just go with it shall we?). I responded that surely not many people would be interested in my horticultural antics and anyway, how can I give this a spin that would make it anything to do with Rio specifically? They were quite insistent and said I’d think of something. Well, I am still a little dubious, but I’ve never been very good at saying no… (even to imaginary people)

Yesterday I was forced into doing a herbal harvest. I say ‘forced’ because things were getting quite out of hand. Not only were the basil plants turning into small trees, but the oregano was starting to strangle the roses and all the plants (apart from the poor roses) were starting to flower. Drastic action was required.

Ever wondered what a chive flower looks like? (of course you have...)

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Cock on the Moutain Top

Well, as usual for Saturdays in November/December, it rained again today. This made it impossible, once again, for me to do a job I’ve been meaning to do for ages (putting up a trellis since you ask). After glowering at the rain for an hour or so, I decided to go and do something else that I’ve been meaning to do for a while – a food mission! 

One of the things I really miss about London is the great variety of world food available. In particular I miss the zingy flavours and spice of Thai, Vietnamese and Indian food. The few Southeast Asian restaurants I’ve seen are either mediocre or expensive (or both!) and the supermarkets don’t stock the ingredients essential to these cuisines, so until today I have had to go without.

Then, a couple of months ago, we were riding on the bus through the neighbourhood of Flamengo when we spotted this:

Although I pass this place everyday on my way to work, I'm always late and so never have time to stop in. Today I made it my mission to go and check it out.

And so, with the weather alternating between light drizzle and heavy downpour, I set off to check out what, as far as I know, is the only Asian market in Zona Sul. I had no idea I was going to find cock on the mountain top…

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The Herbs are Smoking!

The best way to describe recent weather in Rio would be ‘changeable’. Yesterday was blisteringly hot, then last night there was a torrential downpour (just after got home – yes!). This morning I woke to a rather tedious drizzle which reminded me of England. 

A day or two of rain doesn’t really bother me (well, unless those two days are Saturday and Sunday!) – I actually rather like a bit of mixed weather. And it seems that I’m not the only one!


This Basil ain’t Fawlty! In fact it is getting a little bit too successful.

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True Pepper

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like Brazilian food when I first got here, but it did take a little time to get to know it well enough that I could appreciate the difference between, for example, good farofa and bad farofa – at first they all just taste like weird, dry powder. After a while you get a feel for it and you start to understand why some places have people spilling out onto the street while others stand empty. 

One criticism you could level at mainstream Brazilian food is that it can be a little bland and stodgy. I’ve learned to love rice, beans and farofa but there are times when I long for a lamb bhuna or a Thai green curry. 


Indian food. Sigh - que saudade…


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