Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I learned early how to cope with the stresses of our annual crazy, eccentric Carnival, which this year began yesterday, and ends Tuesday, the dawning of Lent. The secrets to surviving Carnival are to stay hydrated and to eat just enough to keep going day and night, dancing and partying being among the prime activities.
Not wanting to waste any Carnival time for meals, we locals opt for Brazilian snacks as a good and extremely rewarding solution. Brazilian snacks are the best - a unique fusion of the European food of the colonial Portuguese with palmito (hearts of palm), which was introduced by the African slaves, as well as with foods and preparation methods of the indigenous Indians.
Street vendors and lunchonetes offer a wide variety of snacks from the different regions of Brazil. Among them are empadinhas (small pies), which have various fillings of carne (meat), palmito or camarao (shrimp). The Portuguese brought the bolinhos de bacalhau, fried balls of bacalhau (salt cod). There are pasteis, a fried, thin pastry filled with chicken and ham, other meat or cheese; esfihas, originally from the Orient, which are pastries stuffed with spiced meat; and risoles, crumbed, half-moon pastries filled with tomatoes, cheese, chicken or other meat. Coxinhas are richly spiced, tasty chicken in dough, rolled in the form of a pear (coxinha means little thigh) and then fried.
Quibe, originally from the Middle East, is a mix of minced meat, mint and couscous fried in oil. Enroladinhos are another kind of attractive salgadinhos (appetizers): spicy sausages wrapped in bread. From Bahia and our African heritage come acarajes, fried bean cakes with shrimp and hot chiles. Goiania, the most central state, gives us pamonhas, a specialty also in Sao Paulo, which are rolls of corn husks filled with corn puree and boiled. That is the sweet version. The salty version is made with a filling of cheese or sausage. There many more snacks, like croquettes de queijo (cheese croquettes), queijadinhas (little cheese custards), frigideiras de camarao (shrimp frittatas) and let's not forget the simply delicious pao de queijo, a savory cheese snack that goes perfectly with coffee.
A popular and healthy drink to go with these snacks is the batida de fruta, orange juice or milk mixed with all kinds of fruits in the blender.
Vera Calabria is an opera director and a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who wrote this story for Tribune Media Services.
FRIGIDEIRA DE CAMARAO (Shrimp Frittata)
Similar to the Italian frittata, this is an oven-baked flat omelet. "Frigideira" is a heavy-duty iron frying pan that can be used both on top of the stove or in the oven. This recipe is adapted from "Cafe Brazil" by Michael Bateman (Contemporary, $19.95).
1 pound peeled raw shrimp
juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves, crushed, then chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped leek
1 large tomato, skinned, seeded and diced
2 sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
butter for greasing pan
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt, to taste
tomato wedges for garnish, optional
leek greens for garnish, optional
cooked long-grain white rice, optional
Marinate shrimp in lime juice, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste for 30 minutes. Fry leek in a little olive oil until soft. Add tomato, cilantro and coconut milk, and simmer until mixture begins to thicken. Add shrimp and heat through.
Butter an ovenproof iron frying pan and transfer shrimp mixture to it. Beat eggs with baking powder, adding salt to taste, and pour over shrimp. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Garnish with tomato wedges and leek greens, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve with steaming hot white rice, if desired.
Per serving: 248 calories, 28 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 485 milligrams cholesterol, 367 milligrams sodium
Analysis for this recipe was conducted by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.
Here are more menu ideas for a Brazilian Carnival party from handbag.com:
No time to cook? Make a quick salad of prawns, papaya (Brazilian are the best) and salad greens. Dress with lime juice and olive oil.
In the evening, make the national cocktail, the caipirinha. In a cocktail shaker or tumbler, muddle 1 lime with 1 shot of sugar syrup or 1 teaspoon of sugar. Tip into a tumbler half filled with ice. Pour in two shots of cachaca, and stir. The trend in Rio now is to make caipirinha by substituting sake for the cachaca
Fry whole, peeled bananas in butter and add a few splashes of cachaca. Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.