Rio’s Best Sandwiches

Discussion in 'Central/South America' started by NileGuide, Sep 22, 2011.  |  Print Topic

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    Tapioca is a tasty local take on the traditional sandwich
    Cold sandwiches as a cheap ‘eat on the hoof’ snack haven’t really taken off in Rio de Janeiro, and you’re more likely to find sandwiches in Rio served hot off a griddle than in the refrigerator. You can find sandwiches in every price range, from budget-busting to budget-friendly, and some of the tastiest are also the most affordable.
    In the former category, the upper crust bars of the city’s picturesque South Zone see smart bars and cafes serving baguettes filled wth gourmet treats such as buffallo mozzerella, sun-dried tomatoes and pastrami, at prices that reflect the well-heeled location. Leblon’s Talho Capixaba is an excellent case in point, and considered by many locals to offer the best sandwiches in the city.
    Cold sandwiches can be found at some corner snack bars, but they do tend to be expensive, unlike the tasty grilled cheese and ham sandwiches (the traditional misto quente) that can be found from street vendors across the city for as little as R$1 (the price often includes a plastic cup of soda too!). As a quick and cheap snack they’re hard to beat, and some vendors are a little more adventurous in the types of grilled sarnies they offer – try the Romeo e Julieta, which combines queijo minas (a semi-soft, salty white cheese) with goibada (a super-sweet and semi-hard guava jelly, cut into slices). Why it’s named after Shakespeare’s most famous lovers is anybody’s guess, but I like to think that it’s because the ingredients shouldn’t work well together, but someh0w they do. The mix of sweet guava and salty cheese is an unusual taste, but a far from unpleasant one, and Romeo e Julieta sandwiches can be eaten hot off the griddle or cold on the mini baguettes (called Pao Frances – literally, French Bread, although it bears little resemblance to anything eaten in France…) that locals eat for breakfast each any every morning.
    To take your experimental street snacking up a notch, however, ditch the bread and try something with a little more local flavour – tapioca. If this calls to mind images of gloopy desserts, think again. Brazilian tapioca is something deliciously different, and is sold by street vendors at every busy corner in Rio. The tapioca grain is ground into a fine flour which, when heated in a pan over a flame, miraculously forms itself into a pancake-like base onto which any sweet or savory topping can be added. The ‘sandwich’ is then folded over causing the fillings to melt and form a gloriously gooey consistency. It’s good news for wheat avoiders too, as tapioca is naturally wheat and gluten-free.
    Sweet fillings include doce de leite (similar to caramel) chocolate or coconut (or a combination) while savory versions might include simple grated cheese, queijo minas with chopped tomatos and oregano or chicken with catupiry (a soft, spreadable cheese). Of course, if you can’t decide between sweet and savory, there’s always Romeo e Julieta.
    Photo courtesy of Ademar Ribeiro

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