Brazilian tapioca is made by spooning starchy cassava flour onto a hot pan, where it magically forms itself into a crisp pancake. Typical savory fillings include sun-dried beef or grated cheese, while sweet versions often feature bananas and chocolate spread. Cariocas (Rio natives) also like to mix things up by combining cheese and shredded coconut, or salty white cheese and sweet guava jelly.
Rio locals laugh in the face of your standard hotdog. The Carioca version comes topped with everything from olives and canned corn to quail eggs and matchstick potatoes. Just take your pick from the mini-buffet in front of the hotdog cart, and ask the vendor to load up your dawg.
Popcorn in Rio goes beyond ‘sweet’ or ‘salty’. The savory version comes with optional cubes of ‘popped’ cheese and bacon thrown in. Nicer than it sounds.
Fresh tropical fruit is cheap and abundant in Rio, and little pots of chopped papaya, mango, banana and apple – with or without condensed milk – are sold from cool boxes across the city. Wash it down with an agua de coco (coconut water, sold from distinctive yellow and green carts) for a hangover-busting energy boost.
These meat kebabs are grilled on street corners across Rio. Beef, chicken and giant hot dogs dipped in seasoned manioc flour are standard. Those red and white blobs? Chicken hearts – strictly for the more adventurous eater.
The vegetarian version of meat on a stick, this is a popular beach snack. Vendors grill firm, salty white cheese over hot coals, with optional oregano. A word to the wise – check your teeth afterwards if you opt for the herbs.
Calories, be damned. Pasteis are deep-fried pastries stuffed with cheese/meat or both, and are commonly washed down with a caldo de cana — sugar cane juice. Wherever there’s a feira da rua — or street market — in Rio, you’ll find a stall selling these quick fix favorites.
Like tapioca, acaraje is a street eat from Northeastern Brazil that’s become hugely popular in Rio. White-clad vendors deep fry bean meal patties, and then stuff them with shrimp, spiced tomatoes, and a gooey okra paste. Messy to eat, but oh-so worth the hassle.
Ok, it’s technically a drink, but with so much fruit thrown into these potent cocktails, you can get your five-a-day even as you booze yourself to oblivion. A caipifruta is like a standard caipirinha, but made with your choice of fruit in place of the standard lime. Most vendors will have a vast array of juicy beauties that might include strawberries, pineapple, mango and passionfruit, depending on what’s in season.
Forget everything you think you know about couscous. The version found on the streets of Rio is sweet, not savory, and it’s made from tapioca grain and coconut instead of dehydrated wheat. The mixture is cut into solid blocks, with the option of condensed milk on top.