I was spellbound by the women behind the busy street stand, hair bound in headscarves and with hooped skirts, pounding a huge paddle into a bucket of batter made from black eyed peas. The pounding was constant and then suddenly the paddle was lifted and a dollop of white sticky dough was dropped into the boiling orange Dende oil (palm oil). The batter floating on the surface turned a beautiful deep golden colour as it crisped and took on the flavour of the oil, then like canoes in white water, they were all flipped over and the transformation began again.
I had little idea what I was ordering but the fragrance from the stand and the theatre of the Banianas De Acarje (Acarje sellers) made me stop and order. Tiny shrimp, salty and sweet filled the sliced open crisp, fluffy bread which was topped with tomatoes and onions. All pilled too high to eat without a generous amount down my front.
Beside the bucket, a mini BBQ of white textured bread was gradually roasting ready for the Bobo De Camarao, a thick ochre coloured shrimp and manoic paste, mixed with coconut milk. Which was then topped with a spicy drizzle. This is Rio Street food.
But not the only flavours to be found. Every Botequim (bar) in Rio has its snacks and some of these places are so tiny that the only option is to take your fried Petiscos (snacks) out into the street. An ice cold beer in a large bottle, clad in an insulating skin and a plate or two of Petiscos to take to the sea wall, make a perfect street food snack.
Empanadas, crisp and brown filled with prawn, garlic and nutmeg. Bolinho De Bacalhau, balls of salt cod, garlic, shallot and parsley, bread crumbed and deep fried, soft and salty. Made mellow with potato and the sweetness of the shallots. Parmesan and provolone Bolinha De Queijo, tiny tear shaped, crisp coated balls of cheese. Deep fried and served with a squeeze of lime and finally Torta De Frango (Chicken Pie) Buttery pastry filled with chunky pieces of chicken. Small enough to pick up in your hands and satisfyingly savoury.
Mr Glam and I took our selection to the sea wall to watch the sun set, washing the fishing boats in a daily pink glow. Up the road we could hear the antics of the street children as they splashed and dived into the water, calling to their friends as they flipped and pitched off the jetty. With bright smiles and a quip or two they accepted our offer of snacks, laughing and high fiving as they went.
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