6 Must-Try Carnival Foods While in Brazil
Brazil’s Carnival. If you’ve ever experienced it yourself, you know what I’m talking about: a 5-day celebration of epic proportions. The most famous Carnival celebrations are in Rio de Janeiro, where 30,000 performers and 80,000 spectators party from 9pm until 8am in a specially constructed “Sambadrome”, showcasing spectacular floats, samba schools and drumming bands. And with the World Cup coming up, this year’s Carnival is set to be the biggest one yet. Needless to say, to get through the week, Carnival-ers need some serious fuel which comes in the form of ridiculously delicious street food. Here’s my favourites:
The national cocktail of Brazil, these potent cocktails are literally on sale everywhere you look, and they are as deadly as heck. Caipirinhas are essentially 3 ingredients: lime, sugar and cachaça (a Brazilian spirit made from sugar cane). If lime doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, you can ask for a caipifruta made with your tropical fruit of choice – all of the stands are decorated luridly with tropical fruit: watermelon, pineapples, guavas, coconuts, papayas. I’m partial towards watermelon, but after 2 caipirinhas, my body goes blissfully numb and everything starts to taste the same.
The Brazilian equivalent of a hotdog, espetinhos are a sinfully salty, juicy Brazilian barbecued sausage, coated in manioc flour and served with hot sauce, fresh tomato salsa or both. On first glance, espetinhos look sketchy to say the last – usually they’re cooked through first, then heated on coals upon request. But if you can push past paranoia of life threatening food poisoning, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the most popular street food items Carnival has to offer.
3. Queijo coalho
There’s no getting around the fact: it’s cheese on a stick. The cheese commonly used has this incredible consistency: it’s mozzarella-ishly stringy and smooth, and when cooked, an addictive crust forms on the outside. These are on sale everywhere, even on the beach – look for the man carrying around a black metal box and a plastic crate on his head, yell out to him and he will trot over to cook you a freshly grilled queijo coalho right before your eyes. And all for about US$1.20 a pop.
Yes, it is true that beer becomes cheaper than water during Carnival. An agua fria will set you back 2 or 3 reis per bottle, whereas for beer, it’s common to see a large “SKOL: 3 for $5” sign propped up in the air. The rule of thumb with Brazilian beer is: drink it icy, icy cold. Warm Skol, Brahma or Itaipava is simply awful, but when chilled to perfection, drinking it in the hot Brazilian sunshine is so refreshing it makes you gasp with delight. I LOVE BRAZIL!
Japazilian food is huge in Brazil (fun fact: Sao Paolo, the economic capital of Brazil has the largest Japanese population in the world outside of Japan). The fusion of these two cultures brings interesting results. Notable differences between this stuff and the authentic Japanese version is a disproportionate amount of onion, cabbage and chicken to noodles – but take my word for it, it’s delicious. Oh, and if you’re ever in Brazil, check out the nearest Japazilian menu – you’ll find deep fried sushi rolls, and cream cheese in just about everything.
6. Agua do coco
There is nothing that beats walking up to a Brazilian man holding a machete and asking him to crack open a sweet, cold coconut for you. Not only do they taste glorious when you’re parched and sweaty and disgusting from partying so much, but they’re also packed with electrolytes for rehydration. Once you’re done, go back with your empty coconut and he’ll split it open and whittle a spoon-shaped bit of coconut skin for you so that you can scoop out the sweet flesh.
But all the food aside, the best thing about Carnival? It’s all-inclusive. There are no social barriers, no boundaries. Straight or gay, rich or poor, young or old, balding or bootylicious, Gringo or Carioca – Carnival is a party for all. It is very much come one, come all to eat, drink, drink, drink, drink, drink and be merry.