The tapioca crepe is very interesting. The guy puts some tapioca flour in the frying pan, and the flour slowly begins to coagulate into a crepe. Never seen anything like this before. The dry flour slowly turns into a solid thing, without the aid of water or other coagulant. Then, he flips it over, stuffs it with whatever you asked (cheese, coconut flakes, chocolate, jerk beef flakes, sausage slices, etc.) folds it in half and hands it to you. We tried various fillings and our top favorite was the coconut flakes and chocolate one.
Anthony Bourdain's episode on Brazil. (Digression: I just discovered his personal blog while googling for him and I'm planning to leave a comment telling him what a great inspiration he's been.) Back to pao na chapa (which means "grilled bread") - I told a Brazilian girl in our hostel about "the bread on Anthony Bourdain's show" and she told me how it's called, but by the time I got to the corner store I had already forgotten how to ask for it. Somehow, I could not memorize "na chapa." I later found "na chapa" on different restaurant menus, next to the name of various items of food or meats that can be grilled. I'll never forget it again. Pao na chapa is a very simple thing: super fresh french white bread, with a thin layer of butter and then grilled. We ate a lot of this in the mornings, and accompanied it with fresh squeezed juices.
Brazilian snack, also popular in Portugal. It is made from shredded chicken and spices (occasionally including Catupiry-style cheese), enclosed in wheat flour—variants made from potato or manioc are also common--batter, and deep fried. It is shaped to roughly resemble a chicken drumstick.
Coxinhas were originally made with a chicken thigh, thus the origin of its traditional shape. Coxinha literally means "little thigh", and it is how chicken drumsticks are known in Brazil." (Quote courtesy of Wikipedia.)
Buzios for a couple of days and pretended to live like the rich and famous. Buzios is a peninsula about 3 hours north of Rio, surrounded by many beaches, surfers, cruise ships and packed with Argentine tourists. Anne and I split a churrasco (grilled steak with a skirt of fat) with a side of cassava (yucca) fries and rice with farofa. Farofa is a toasted manioc flour mix very popular in Brazil (and in Nigeria too, apparently). They serve it almost everywhere as a side/condiment (the way they'd serve a small bowl of salsa at a Mexican restaurant). You can sprinkle it on top of everything, mostly to add texture and a bit of flavor.
All in all, Brazil's food was a huge positive surprise. Aside from steaks, Brazilian food is not much known in the US (or at least not in my circle of friends.) While not spicy, it is very fresh and cooked in a healthy way, that preserves the distinct taste of the ingredients. Supermarkets are packed with fresh produce and overall, it seems that Brazilians are aware of the importance to eat a healthy diet.
Update [Anne writing now]:
I can barely hear the words "Brazilian" and "food" in the same sentence without gagging, due to my illness on our final days in Rio, but I wanted to add a bit to this post.
I really liked the food in Brazil. One of my favorite things about Rio was the fresh fruit juice stands (sucos) on almost every corner. The juices were fresh, diverse and inexpensive. I tried to keep track of all the different juices I tried. Here's what I can remember: orange, orange/carrot/beet, maracuja (sour passion fruit), watermelon, caju (fruit from the cashew tree--very delicious), acai, kiwi, strawberry, coconut and I'm sure I'm forgetting some ...
|Tuti fruity was a menu option. I still don't know what this means.|
|Corn on the cobb. Both Monica and Bruna agree that this harder, chewier corn is better than our soft, sweet corn in the U.S. I didn't tell them, but I like ours better.|
|Delicious cake made out of coconut--not too sweet. Perfected with a drizzle of a sweet dulce de leche-type sauce over the top.|
|Tic tacs flavored with cherry and maracuja. I bet these were pretty tasty.|
|More street food. Like caramel corn but way better. It had some sort of cinnamon-y flavor that I couldn't quite place. I swore these tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, but Bruna just laughed at me. I kept the bag for memories.|
|Monica ate this nacho-cheese-filled bread thing. I'm not sure if she liked it or not. I think it was just okay.|
|At the beach in Buzios, this couple was selling all sorts of grilled meats and cheeses. Monica got a sausage that tasted like a summer sausage to me.|
|Oysters on the beach. Monica wanted some, but was afraid they might be spoiled from sitting out in the heat.|