…. eating in Brazil
The word clean or even healthy has dropped off the title for this article, as both are non-existent (so far) in Brazil. We have so far visited Rio de Janerio, Ilha Grande, Paraty and now sit in Sao Paulo and I have been so shocked on how the locals eat here. The cuisine is the total opposite to how I usually eat, and although fruit seems to be a key component in the Brazilian diet, vegetables are basically omitted from the dinner plate, apart from a side salad that will consist of tomato, lettuce and onion, none of which will be fresh or look very appealing.
I’m not saying that locals don’t perhaps buy healthier food and prepare this at home but as the majority of the time we have to eat out, all I see is the food on menu’s and what people are eating out and it has been dreadful and shocking and I cannot believe a nation eat like this. I don’t know how I can express in words what the experience has been like, perhaps scroll through the below images first.
Breakfast is cake, no not a muffin with perhaps some sign of fruit sticking out the top, not even cake with some sort of visible fruit, sponge cake which usually looks quite moist so I am sure it is packed with tonnes of oil/butter/eggs, judging from appearance. Always a large white bread roll with jam and butter, fruit and then some cereal like chocolate pops and cornflakes with milk. Of course the latter options are ok, and it is even better when sometimes granola is on offer however why is there even cake present at this time of the day?? A white bread roll with jam and butter, what nutrients are in this food? How is there anything good to fuel your body in that?
Cake and sweets are everywhere, it is insane, on every street corner there will be someone selling cakes, children come into restaurants while you eat dinner and try sell you homemade sweets. Acai is huge in Brazil too, which is fantastic and a total treat as it is hard to find not to mention expensive on our side of the world however it once again baffles me what is added to the usually nourishing Acai bowl. Apart from the usual strawberry, banana and granola (I have chosen to turn a blind eye as to how sugary the granola is), condensed milk will be poured over the top, or perhaps layered with milk powder or sometimes it is even topped with cream, it differs city to city. It is so unnecessary to add all these things to an already high sugar food, the acai here is also usually prepared with a guarana syrup/powder, and unfortunately not all that wholesome, but once again I turn a blind eye and just enjoy it and request my Acai bowl without the extra creamy toppings. I also tried to buy a nice pot of fruit salad yesterday and on went the condensed milk!! ARGGGGGHHHH!!!
Bigger meals are meat/fish/chicken with either white rice and chips, and the portions are huge, the rice and chips will be an entire dinner plates worth with the protein, deep fried (sometimes grilled if you are lucky), on top – served with olive oil for you to pour all over the top. We have found in different areas of the country as we travel down food is slowly changing (getting worse), and in Rio the cakes and sweets were not as prolific and meals also were always served with beans and salad which at least added some nutritional value to the plate. I just don’t understand how rice, chips and deep fried chicken can be considered a meal.
Yesterday I ordered a chicken salad, ordering a salad is risky here and it being quite pricey I translated each ingredient and the salad sounded great, I was all ready with the olive oil. It arrived, I was not impressed. The chicken was almost like a powder consistency, it was so disappointing, I was really looking forward to a nice grilled piece of chicken.
Something that also took us by surprise here is the buffet style eating in Brazil, but it is not all you can eat, it is eat by weight. You fill your plate and then the plate of food gets weighed and you’ll be charged this amount for your meal. The cost per 100g can be between R$2.50 – R$4, ($1.25AU-$2AU) quality does of course range a huge amount, so it is good to have a good look before you grab a plate. There will be salads, cooked vegetables, pasta, meat, pastries, fish – anything you can imagine, and some even offer dessert by the kg too. The first time we saw this going on we were so confused, then the first time we actually ended up trying it we were a little hesitant and both under ate, scared we were going to be hit with a big bill come weigh-in. Since this we have had a few more goes and it has worked out great for us as a lunch option, as these types of places are usually only open during the day and not for dinner – it is so popular however, the majority of restaurants offer this option.
It suits us for two reasons, we can choose what we want to eat, nothing is lost in translation via a dodgy menu and our make shift translating, and I can pile my plate with lots of blessed vegetables. The other reason being you are not charged a service charge for this option. In every instance when we have eaten out at a restaurant so far we have been charged 10% of the total bill as a service charge. One time we thought the sign outside was saying $5 Mojitos, but it actually said $5 cover charge each to listen to a lone guitarist play, PLUS the 10% service charge, we were not impressed!
We are on holiday, and of course we have been trying all these sinful foods, this is a once in a life time trip, and it’s a laugh and all part of the fun – but how can this be everyday food for so many of the Brazilian people. I leave you with the Mortabella sandwich, Sao Paulo is famous for it, there were hundreds of people chowing down on these at the Municipal Markets, and I am sure they were not all tourists. We shared one.
Rob and I went out for our last meal in Sao Paulo today and I took the leap and ordered the only salad on the menu, success!! It was great, the cheese is Queijo Minas, and it is a little like haloumi, but not as rubbery and strong tasting.