Whether you’re short of cash, time, or both, the many food stalls that can be found right across Rio are excellent ways to fill up without blowing the budget or interrupting your itinerary.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the locals is evident in the sheer variety of snacks that are available on the streets of Rio – it’s possible to pick up everything from Northeastern Brazilian specialities to simple barbequed meat, via boiled corn cobs, toasted sandwiches and plenty of more specifically Brazilian eats.
For carnivores with serious hunger pangs, don’t miss the opportunity to try a hot dog or burger X Tudo. The name means ‘with everything’, and is no exaggeration. For as little as R$2, you can have your hot dog/burger loaded with cheese, peas, matchstick potatoes, olives, quail’s eggs, mayonnaise, ketchup, an extra burger…this really is the fast, budget-friendly route to Fullsville. Even vegetarians fare well here – many stalls allow customers to pile on their own toppings, so ask for the bread bun minus the burger and you can serve yourself a mighty meat-free sandwich.
Another must-try for visitors to Rio is the lipsmackingly good Northeastern food served by the city’s Baianas (natives of Bahia). At street corners and public squares from the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema to the hills of Santa Teresa, the Baianas, clad all in white, sit by bubbling pots filled with deliciously different foods. For a savoury treat, try the acaraje (pronounced ac-ar-a-jay). Flour made from ground beans is formed into balls and fried, before being cut open and stuffed with shrimp, tomato salsa, a gooey but yummy sauce made from okra and, for those who like it hot, a very fiery chilli sauce. Acaraje completa combines all these goodies, but it’s possible to omit anything you don’t fancy. Acaraje ‘sem camarao’ (without shrimp) makes a fast and filling vegetarian treat, for example. For sweet toothed snackers, the cakes made with caramalised coconut are worth the ticking off from the dentist.
Another quick, cheap and easy way to fill up is to order Tapioca from one of the countless carts that dot the city. The tapioca flour is made into a sort of light pancake, which can be filled with everything from cheese, tomato and herbs to chocolate and coconut. Tapioca typically costs between R$2-5, with prices higher in touristy areas, and is a seriously delicious snack (and excellent sandwich replacement for anyone avoiding wheat). Beware, like many street snacks in Rio, it can be habit-forming!
Photo: Bahian treats in Centro, courtesy of Lucy Bryson