Street and boteco food: one bite at a time

Street and boteco food: one bite at a time

By
Fernanda de Paula, Shelley Hepworth
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742706801
Photographer
Stuart Scott

Brazilians make an art out of snacking. Whether it be at home, on the street or at the beach, having food on hand is an essential ingredient of a good time, and gives people the freedom to move about as they catch up with friends and family. But the true temples of petiscos (finger food) are the botecos. These little bars line the streets of every city in the country and range in character from very simple to up-market, although most are humble places. All it takes is somewhere to cook, a place to keep the beer cold and a few plastic chairs and tables on the pavement, and pronto – a boteco! Some are just a couple of chairs, while others boast a sea of tables, often of bright yellow plastic.

In every boteco you’ll find people from all walks of life mixing and mingling, sipping beer or sampling a reputable collection of cachaça, Brazil’s unique sugarcane spirit. The menu outlines all the house specialties and sometimes trays will circulate for patrons to take their pick. Music is always on the cards and impromptu circles of musicians, known as samba de roda (literally ‘samba circle’), can spontaneously pop up, with everyone joining in the singing and dancing.

Boteco food is cherished, and competitions to find the best boteco dish are a hit in many cities. These annual pilgrimages guarantee a fun evening with many pit stops. To win, contenders must score well across a number of categories including the cleanliness of the venue’s bathroom, staff friendliness, and whether the beer is as icy as it should be by Brazilian standards. That’s what we call a holistic approach!

The streets themselves are something of a culinary treasure-hunt, with street food staples varying from city to city. Since Brazilians use the street as if it were their backyard, grabbing chairs and sitting around the pavements shooting the breeze while the kids play, it’s no surprise that a lot of food is sold and eaten on the streets: outside churches, in main squares and in markets around town.

Salvador, the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture, is awash with Bahianas (women from the state of Bahia) dressed in religious clothing and cooking up little gems like acarajé, a type of black-eyed pea and prawn fritter that originated as an offering to the gods. Cities such as Natal and Recife in the North-East are known for the tapioca pancake. This chewy goodness is served with simple toppings – both savoury and sweet – such as cheese, shredded coconut with condensed milk, or charque, a type of sun-dried, salted beef found all over the region.

The combination of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice served with a deep-fried pastry, known as pastel, is a mouth-watering classic found in every state. Meanwhile, the street food of the Amazon is suitably exotic. Acai smoothies, tambaqui fish barbecue and tacacá, a soup made from jambu leaves (which make your mouth go numb) are sold everywhere. In fact, you can create a very healthy diet from Brazilian street food alone.

Recipes in this Chapter

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