I’ve probably read this from nowhere and I’m pretty sure I’m making this up, but I’m of the mindset that the awesomeness of an entire country can be measured by the quality of fried food in its cuisine. If that were true, then Brazil just shot to the top of our list for being one of the most awesome country in the entire world. Frankly, if the thought of biting into the most crispy, crunchy, juicy/tender fried chicken in the world doesn’t get you hot and bothered, then this post is not for you(you monster).
Truth be told, prior to visiting Brazil, my only concept of the country was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, skimpy swimsuits and Mrs. Tom Brady. Which is to say… I knew very little about the country. Sure, I’ve watched countless episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows, especially the episodes dedicated to the majesty of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. But, I realized that watching television and being in the country are two separate beasts. Kind of like the difference of only watching Kanye West(major douchebag) to actually being Kanye West(probably f’en awesome).
So anyhow, without further adieu, here are some of the best fried foods from the awesome-sauce country of Brazil. And yes, I do realize this is not an exhaustive list, but its something to get you going. If anything, we highly recommend hoping over to Kayak and booking yourself a round trip ticket today!
Pão de Queijo / Cheese Balls
Everytime I go to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrascaria I try to put together a plan of attack. Remember, the focus is on the meat. Don’t ever get suckered in by the salad bar, cause that’s how they get you. But shit, every time they start popping out those delicious pão de queijo/cheese balls, its all over. Somehow I always end up eating 15 of those bad boys and my $55 dollar dinner just went out the window. What is particularly interesting is that pão de queijo can be eaten both as a breakfast and a snack. Not only can you find these puppies in every corner store, mall food court and Chinese fast food joints, you can even buy these at your neighborhood McDonald’s where they (seemingly) have replaced the hash brown on the breakfast menu.
Price wise, these are dirt cheap that you can put together an unbalanced meal out of these. But hey, thats okay because you are on vacation – at least thats what I like to tell myself every weekend.
Pastéis / Pastels
Pastéis come in all sorts of sizes and can be found all over Brazil. An afternoon staple, these fried pastries are (for a lack of a better term) frickin’ bomb. The first time I tried these, it totally reminded me of an expanded wonton because of its crunchy shell. Not to say these aren’t good(because they are), the shape does take a while to get use to due to its size.
Pastéis can be filled with a variety of meat and cheeses. The pastels at the very top was a mixed bag of flavors, including mozzarella cheese, chicken and beef and mashed together in a sultry, flaky shell. Add some big mac sauce to these and you will have successfully fought off anorexia.
Casquinha de Siri
The casquinha de siri(crab cakes) aren’t really fried, but we are adding them onto the list for the very reason that they are commonly found alongside fried food outlets in Brazil. Plus, Anthony Bourdain recommended that we try them, so anything that Bourdain says, we listen.
The pastry-style crust reminds me of the crust off of a Portuguese egg tart, whereas the filling is smooth like an artichoke dip. The crab is sauteed with coconut milk and bread crubs to give it a soft yet crunchy texture. The collective experience is literally like eating a salty egg tart that doubles as lunch rather than just a snack.
Coxinha / Little Chicken Thigh
Pointy, crunchy and more satisfying then a roll of bubble wrap, coxinhas’ are roughly translated as “little chicken thighs.” Why they are little and not hormone-induced like the American version – I have no clue. But what I do know is that the conxinha may be the closest thing to the perfect fried food. It’s crunchy exterior masks a soft, doughy, innard that wraps around shredded chicken meat. It’s rough texture resembles a finely baked tortilla shell that has just started to crumble with the insides akin to some gooey mozzarella cheese. These bad boys are found at every cafe/coffee shop so you really don’t have to look very far to find them. As an added bonus, coxinha’s pair extremely well with a cup/shot of dark Brazilian espresso.
As to the shape. Well, for some reason the pointiness of the coxhinha is shaped to resemble chicken thights(hence the name). But even in my drunken state, I’ve failed to see the resemblance. But hey, I know this stuff is good and that’s all I really care about.
Bolinho de Bacalhau(Codfish Cakes) & Empanada
I’m rolling these two foods together into the same heading because I don’t have a picture that separates them out, so yeah. Starting off with the Bolinho de Bacalhau, these are essentially, fried codfish cakes that are rolled into the shape of either a ball or an elongated oval. While the ingredients are simple(mainly fish, eggs and potato), the taste is humongous. When paired with a bottle of Antartica Original beer, these things can take you higher than an eagle while being the wind beneath your wings.
The empanada is ubiquitous all over South America and the Brazilian type, is equally awesome. Flaky shell with a filling that seemingly lasts and lasts, its the perfect comfort food. for everyone.
In a near unanimous agreement, this was the best fried chicken we have ever had. The lemon seasoning was spot on, whereas the meat stayed so tender and moist that the wings could have solved all of California’s drought problems. AND yes, I do realize I’m saying this about Hooters. So #Don’tjudgeme but rather, try it.
Big thanks to our new friend, Tainá Dalcero, who was one hell of a tour guide/fixer/new friend out in Rio de Janeiro. Without her extensive knowledge of the city, our blood pressure would still remain unreasonably low. But, due to her encyclopedia-like knowledge of good eats, we are happy to say, we have regained our American forms. All kidding aside, we can’t recommend her enough if you are looking for a highly experienced, knowledgeable and super cool guide! Book her here!
If these is one spot that we would recommend where you can get the majority of these foods it would be Bar Urca located in the Urca district in Rio de Janeiro.
Bar e Restaurante Urca
Rua Cândido Gaffrée, 205
Urca – Rio de Janeiro
+ 55 (21) 2295-8744