You’re heading to Brazil on holidays but don’t have lots of money to spend? If you don’t want any compromise on the quality of your food, there’s a solution for you: street food!
Coxinha (top) / Esfiha (bottom)
From big cities to smaller towns, you’ll find lots of small trolleys in the streets selling savoury or sweet snacks at a very affordable price. While staying here with So’ and to keep our budget at peace, we used them a lot when we didn’t have access to a kitchen or just when we were feeling lazy. You can find a list of our favourite ones below, that you’re guaranteed to find nearly anywhere in Brazil!
A little pear-shaped treat, covered with breadcrumbs or fried flour & filled with a delicious mix of shredded chicken and cream cheese. Not on the light side of things, one coxinha can be quite filling and usually costs around 5 R$ in the streets (around €1.35), your best friend to keep both your budget & belly happy!
The name itself means “Little Thigh”, since the original version of it was made using a whole chicken thigh, hence today’s shape and name.
Pão de queijo
Literally translating into “Cheese Bread”, these little balls of cheese-filled dough are to die for! Make sure you get them straight out of the oven when possible, like most foods in Brazil, they’re often sold by weight, with a price per kilo of R$25 to R$50 (€6.75 to €13). For once in Brazil, the cheese used is usually quite tasty and not neutral.
The best ones are found in “Padaria” (bakery) with a delicious version of them in the chain Pão & Companhia, that has quite a few outlets in Rio de Janeiro & Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais).
Pastel de queijo
So, the name can be quite confusing between the previous one and that one, but they are two very different things. Pastel de queijo is a crispy fried crescent (or rectangle) of dough filled with melted cheese.
The dough is made of flour, margarine, egg yolks and water. The cheese that’s commonly used is a Brazilian cheese called Mussarella, which has nothing to do with the Italian Mozzarella, it would be closer to a cheddar-like type of cheese. If you are not a big fan of cheese, don’t worry, it is quite neutral and its main interest is the melting texture in contrast with the crispy dough. That should cost you between R$5 and R$7 (€1.35 to €1.89).
Esfiha or Esfirra
Brazil is a great mix of cultures, with people originating from every corner of the globe, happily bringing a little bit of their background and creating a whole new culture out of the mix. Esfiha is a great example of this, originating in Lebanon and the Middle East, it is known there as “Sfiha” and was introduced here by Lebanese immigrants.
It consists of a triangular piece of crispy dough, filled with a selection of either spinach, ground meat (lamb or beef) or cheese. Esfihas are cheap (about R$5) and super tasty! There’s lots of places to get them, look for carts saying “Doces Arabes” (“Arabic Treats”).
THE National snack of Brazil! An incredible crepe made of the white Mandioca Flour (made of Cassava) and filled with your choice of cheese, shredded chicken or even sweet versions with banana or Nutella®. It’s actually quite unbelievable to see them making it, just pouring the Tapioca flour straight into the pan until it binds together to create a thick little pancake. It is then turned around and topped with ingredients, before it is folded and ready to eat!
You should find great tapioca for around R$5, and if you have a savoury one and a sweet one, that’s your dinner sorted for just R$10!
Means “sweetcorn”, and that’s what it is! The full corn on the cob is boiled in water and brushed with butter to order. Served wrapped in its own natural leaves, it’s a great healthy snack for around R$5. Make sure you sit down while having it and don’t wear your nicest clothes for it, since the melted butter is hard to contain in the leaf, and has a tendency to drill out of it.
You will smell these delicious meat skewers grilling inside barbecues on wheels at every corner. You can have beef, chicken, lamb or the traditional chicken hearts, spiked onto long skewers hanging over a hot charcoal fire.
Tender, smokey, juicy meat comes for R$3 to R$6, a good way to keep your protein levels up on a budget! Locals would tend to avoid the cheapest ones, nicknamed “cat skewers”, hopefully an urban legend…
Bollinho de Bacalau
If you are in the mood for fish, then this delicious cod croquette is for you! We tried an amazing one just at the entrance of the Laranjeiras food market in Rio de Janeiro, made by a family called Mazarope. Judging by the line of locals
queuing at the front, I think it’s no secret that their Bolinhos are great! They charge R$6 for one, and it comes with small wedges of lime on the side and plenty of little sauces.
CAREFUL: If you squeeze lime over your food, remember that you are staying in a very sunny country and lime juice on your skin will result in very painful burns. ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS IF YOU SQUEEZE LIME!!! The locals will say it to you anyway, but make sure you do so…
So' & Max