Eating out in Mexico City



We ate a LOT in Mexico City! In fact we ate so much good food in that pretty much every day involved the same conversation at some point: “Man, when we get back to Rio, we’re going to have to get in shape”.

Yeah, “when we get back to Rio” …but in the meantime:

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Eat Rio Food Tours!

I hinted recently that I had some big news to reveal. Well the time has come, here it is. There’s a new activity to add to your list of things to do in Rio: Eat Rio Food Tours!


Tell your friends!


The idea was hatched in a bar (naturally) many months ago. I was chatting with Diana, my US/Colombian friend who moved to Rio earlier this year. Diana is as food-obsessed as me, but she actually knows what she’s talking about! She has a degree in Restaurant Business and a Masters in Gastronomy (pretty fancy right?).

So there we were, discussing all our favourite Brazilian dishes and ingredients and lamenting the fact that so many visitors come to Rio but miss out on the best stuff. Well, we chatted away, drank some beers, ate some bolinhos and by the end of the night our plan was decided: we would take people out of the comfort zone of Ipanema, away from the mediocrity of Devassa and show them the best food in Rio!

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An illicit beach treat

If you were to ask me about the beach vendors of Rio, I would tell you about good guys with cool-boxes full of icy cold beers slung over their shoulders and a sack of Biscoito Globo in hand. I would describe people dressed in Arab style clothes selling esfiha and kibe, and the vendors laden with beach-balls, bikinis and cangas. I’d tell you about the shouts of “Alô mate! Alô limão!” from the orange clad ice-tea sellers and the clanking of the ice cubes in their twin metal barrels.

Here’s another thing I’d mention: Queijo Coalho (sounds like: KAY-zho KWAH-lyo). “Queijo” is Portuguese for “cheese” and the word coalhado means something like curdled or clotted. The first time I tried this firm, white cheese I had no idea how best to eat it. I had bought it in a supermarket and when I got home I cut it into chunky slices and put it in a sandwich. The result was not good – it was very salty, dense and generally quite disappointing.

Some weeks later Mrs Eat Rio and I were at the beach and a guy wandered past with a small metal tripod suspended above a stout wooden handle. When I was told that he was selling grilled queijo coalho I decided it was time to give this cheese another chance.


Back in the good old days, queijo coalho na brasa (grilled queijo coalho) was a favourite beach treat!


When grilled over hot coals, this cheese is transformed! It is quite similar to halloumi – it has a salty bite and squeaks against your teeth as you eat it! Before getting started, the vendor asks if you’d like oregano which is optionally sprinkled over the cheese before the grilling. A block of cheese is then mounted on a skewer and turned slowly over the glowing coals until it is browned and crisp on all sides. The end result is perfect for the hunger that develops over the course of a day relaxing on the beach:

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Brazilian Tapioca

When you see the word “tapioca”, what image comes to mind? Back in England we pronounce this word ‘tappy-OAK-a’ and it doesn’t have a great reputation – for many people it brings back memories of bad school dinners:


Frogspawn tapioca

Back in England, tapioca pudding is often compared to frogspawn. Ooh yummy!


In more recent times, these tapioca ‘pearls’ have become associated with Bubble Tea – a bit more trendy perhaps, but still quite weird and the resemblance to amphibian eggs is undeniable.

As is often the case, Brazil does things a little differently. Here we call it ‘tappy-OCK-a’ and it is a popular street food, prepared in little stalls on street corners and markets all over Brazil.

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The Mountain Burger in Botafogo

Next to the Metro station in Botafogo, I have recently noticed a little line of stalls selling burgers and hotdogs. Not especially interesting in itself – Rio is full snack bars and street stalls. But this sign caught my eye.


As the burgers get bigger, so the names get more impressive. "Big" (2 patties), "Tri" (3), "Mega" (4) and "Montanha" (5!). "Montanha" means Mountain in case you hadn't worked it out. Also notice the rather excellent signs behind saying "Fala Comigo!!!" (Speak to me!) and "Parada Obrigatoria!" (Stopping Required!).


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The Best Hotdog in Rio

A couple of days ago I told you about my favourite Brazilian food book, Gastronomia de Rua – a guide to 19 of Rio’s best loved street food vendors. I have only visited one or two of the people featured in the book and I would love to cross a few more off. Sometimes the problem is that they sell their wares in some far-flung neighbourhood (compared to my neck of the woods), in other cases the problem is that you have to get up early to catch them. But neither of these things apply to Oliveira, the man who sells what is commonly held to be The Best Hotdog in Rio.

That's quite hotdog! Here in Brazil the word for hot dog is Cachorro Quente - literally 'hot dog'.


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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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