Not everything in the #EatRioLoves series will be something exclusive to Rio, or even Brazil for that matter. If it’s something that I’ve grown to love since my arrival, and it’s available for newcomers to discover and appreciate while here in Rio, then that’s good enough for me. Today I want to talk about massive avocados.
Avocados seem to inspire passionate opinions and I’m pretty sure I’m going to get some major pushback here, so I’ll start with a pre-emptive clarification: Yes, I agree, those gorgeous little Hass avocados are absolutely delicious; they’re perfect for guacamole and smashed avocado on toast, and their high fat content and beautiful, creamy texture is pure savoury indulgence. If I had to choose just one type of avocado to eat for the rest of my life, it would be the Hass.
With that out of the way I’d like to remind you that it’s possible to like more than one thing in this world. Just because you deem one thing to be ‘better’, that doesn’t mean that everything else sucks. And happily you don’t have to choose just one type of avocado to eat for the rest of your life. Turns out that, once you know what you’re doing with them, the massive avocados you find in Rio’s feiras and supermarkets are delightful.
How big are these massive avocados you speak of?
Our food tour guests often stare in wide-eyed shock at the monster avocados lined up on the street market stalls. In terms of volume, we’re talking about anywhere between the size of a large grapefruit up to a full-size football (obviously the shape is different).
Rio must be drowning in guacamole, right?
Nope! Brazilians traditionally use avocado as a sweet fruit rather than savoury. I first learned of this just a few months after I arrived in Brazil: I had picked up a monster avocado from the supermarket and was carefully nurturing it to ripe perfection in the home of my then mother-in-law (where I was living at the time). When the day finally came, I bought all the ingredients for guacamole, but returned home to find my avocado gone. In its place was a bowl of green sludge. The mother-in-law’s cook had decided to helpfully convert my prized fruit into the traditional Brazilian dessert of Mousse de Abacate, blending it with sugar, condensed milk and cream. I had to work hard to hide my avo-rage.
Sweet Avocado?! That’s insane!
OK, I hear you, I understand. But stay with me here and try to keep an open mind. From that first avo-trauma, I had pretty much written off Brazilians as being avo-insane. What on earth were they thinking, adding sweet things to the sacred creamy savoury goodness we call avocado? And then, just a few years ago, my friend and Eat Rio guide, Marie-lou, introduced me to something which led to my conversion: suco de abacate com laranja – a juice/smoothie of blended avocado and orange juice. First there was the velvety texture of the avocado, then came the light, sweet citrus notes of the fresh orange juice. It was a wonderful combination which I instantly added to our daytime food tour itinerary. Today this surprising combination regularly draws incredulous delight from our guests during the juice tasting section of the tours.
The secret to all this is that these massive avocados have a much lower fat content to their diminutive Hass cousins, making them perfect for lighter, sweeter applications. This lower fat content leads to a lot of hate, with grumpy expats describing them as watery and disappointing. But my advice would be to simply choose the right avocado for the recipe you have in mind. The word abacate refers to the larger, lighter avocados that work well in smoothies; the smaller, creamier varieties (which are better suited to guacamole, etc) are often described as avocado (or mini abacate) – they’re easily tracked down in the HortiFruti chain of greengrocers, marketed by the Jaguacy company.
So please, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Next time you’re passing one of Rio’s ubiquitous casas de sucos (juice bars), pop in, order yourself a suco de abacate com laranja, and revel in this new flavour sensation!
(We are currently running our walking food tours on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. If you’d like to join us, get in touch via the contact form)