So I know my American readers are probably exploding by now in a post-Thanksgiving stupor, but today I'm going to talk about street food.
Normally, I avoid street food at all possible costs, with an exception for New York pretzels and hot dogs. Since I've gotten very sick throughout Latin America from regular food, I always protect my sensitive digestive system from the unimaginable germs of street food.
But in Rio, I've made many exceptions, since this city happens to have excellent street food.
- The Soup Lady: there's a lady who has a stand in our neighborhood that sells three kinds of soup. She sets up shop in the afternoon, around four o'clock, and stays there until she finishes selling her wares. We've sometimes passed by at 6 and she's already out of two out of three kinds that she sells. She normally has pea soup with ham, caldo verde (a type of traditional Brazilian soup), and a third I can't recall. Whenever I pass by, there are always people sitting on the ledge behind her stand, slurping soup from plastic cups set in bright-colored plastic bowls. She charges more for take-out.
- The Tapioca Sellers: all around the city, you'll find people with small stands making tapioca crepes. They keep the ingredients in tupperware containers and have a small stove hooked up to a small gas pump that they keep under the stand. What they do is take tapioca, which is white and grainy, and fry it up on a pan like a crepe. There are dozens of options, both salty and sweet. You can get more of a lunch-y crepe, with cheese, meat, and vegetables, or a dessert-y crepe (my obvious preference), with bananas and cinammon, sweet cheese and guava paste, or strawberries and Nutella, to name a few. You can also add a dollop of condensed milk if you're not satisfied with the sweetness. I've seen both men and women in this job, and they always seem to keep their stands and pans completely spotless. I get a huge kick out of watching them flip the tapioca pancake like a small pizza.
- The Churro Men: a popular treat throughout Latin America and Spain, I ate so many churros in my first few months in Rio that it was kind of gross. Basically, it's fried dough sprinkled with sugar and filled with either chocolate, guava paste, or doce de leite. The shape is a little awkward, as you can see in the photo above, but you quickly forget about that once you take a bite.
- The Pipoca Men: All over, you'll find guys selling freshly made popcorn. They usually divide their carts into two sections: the salty popcorn and the sweet popcorn. The salty kind is sometimes cooked with chunks of sausage-like meat, which makes me gag, but otherwise is just made with insane amounts of salt. The sweet kind is caramelized. Mmm.
- The Cuscuz Guys: These guys are harder to come by, but their wares make my mouth water. Cuscuz is a dessert made with tapioca and coconut that has a pudding-like consistency, though it is often baked in rectangles and small squares are cut from it (from street vendors, anyway). They offer to put toppings on it, which usually means condensed milk. So. much. sugar.
- The Sweets Ladies: Undoubtedly, my favorite street food vendors are the women selling homemade candy and chocolates. Depending on the vendor, they sell bonbons, truffles, brigadeiro (a traditional Brazilian dessert made from powdered chocolate), beijinhos (another traditional dessert made from condensed milk and coconut), cocada (a Brazilian treat made from coconut shavings and lots of sugar that come in various flavors), pe-de-moleque (a peanut treat), and other delicious chocolate concoctions.
Coming soon: the street foods I definitely do not make an exception for.