a vegetarian in brasil learns about tapioca

June 8, 2007 § Leave a comment

So, as promised, I wanted to fill you in on some of what I was up to while I was away at the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) Conference in Salvador da Bahia, Brasil. As a vegetarian, I have to say I was concerned about being able to find anything besides bread, candy, and fruit to eat. One thing I was definitely looking forward to was eating pão de queijo, which they do sell in Miami, but I wanted the “real thing.” When my hunny lived in Brasil for work a while back, she was in Minas Gerais. Every morning, every afternoon, every evening, she told me, she had pão de queijo. Needless to say, I was excited about eating it in Brasil! Funny thing is that pão de queijo is really not as abundant outside of Minas Gerais; either that or it was so popular that they were out of it all the time. The reason that it wasn’t as abundant, as I found out, is that it is a regional food. We did eventually find some in the airport on the way home, but I know that they were the same ones you can find in the frozen food section at Publix.

Not all news is bad because overall I was happily surprised by a variety of salads, mixed vegetable dishes, empanadas, and a variety of dishes made from manioc, tapioca, and corn.

At the CSA’s Cultural Night, I was introduced to a dish completely new to me: tapioca with cheese and coconut. It reminded me of the arepas I used to eat as a child in Miami during fairs and festivals. Arepas are like a sandwich made out of two sweet corn meal pancakes and cheese. I thought, ok, this tapioca concoction is kind of like the arepa- “street food,” but I could indulge for the moment. They combined sweet and salty flavors and had a chewy consistency to them. The combination of cheese and coconut was new to me, and tasted great. They are certainly not to be missed if you are out and about and see someone selling these.

The women preparing these at the CSA night spread the tapioca flour out onto the griddle, cooked it through on both sides, and then filled it with your choice of coconut, cheese, and condensed milk. I opted to leave the condensed milk behind, and fill mine with coconut and cheese. I was so good I wanted to eat another one, but one was certainly filling enough.

To my surprise, this tapioca dish isn’t only for street fairs and festivals. (at least not for visitors) The next morning at the hotel, they were serving it for breakfast alongside the made-to-order omelets. Again, you could choose your filling. This time though, the selections were: guava, cheese, coconut, condensed milk, and possibly other things I can’t remember. That morning I also saw someone order it with an egg inside, although I don’t think that that is “typical” in Salvador as the woman looked a little surprised when my hunny ordered it that way the next day.

The ones that were prepared at the hotel were a little less greasy, and probably more along the lines of something I would make at home. I’ve been doing some searching for exactly what goes into one of these things, and I’ll let you know if I find a good link.

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