{Foodbuzz 24x24} A Guide to Street Food in São Paulo Brazil

posted on: Sunday, August 28, 2011

São Paulo is my home town. In fact it is the home town of millions of people with the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, a rising Korean population, an established Arabic, Italian, and Bolivian, community to name a few. Think NYC, only much larger. São Paulo is great not only because of all the international influence but also because people from all different regions in Brazil migrate to São Paulo, bringing with them tastes from back home.

This month I was selected to participate in the Foodbuzz 24x24 event, where 24 bloggers create 24 meals in the space of 24 hours. Normally I would cook something but since I'm on vacation I decided to take you a long with me, on a little trip around the city of São Paulo. I've highlighted 10 of my favorite street foods around the city, all of which I was able to eat as I walked and took the metro around the city on Saturday. I'll show you pictures and give you a brief description of the food and the places where you can find it. I have made a more extensive album of pictures on my Facebook page and a subway guide here which you can print so when you get a chance to come to Brazil you won't get lost in São Paulo, and I promise you won't get hungry either.

My favorite place to hit up on a Saturday morning in the city is Praça Benedito Calixto. It's located in one of my all time favorite neighborhoods, where street art is celebrated, and cool little shops are the norm. Every Saturday from 9:00am-7:00pm the square is full of vendors selling antiques and hand made crafts. Praça Benedito Calixto not only has vinyl records galore it also has a big selection of street food. 

First up is the booth called Natural Dazu, where Diego, his mom, and Diego's friend all work together to make whole grained baked goods. Natural Dazu was the first street booth to sell salgadinhos made from whole wheat. Salgadinhos are baked or fried doughy snacks with some type of savory filling. The one I ate is called chinelinho, sandals, and it's filled with fetta and spinach. It's perfect for an early morning snack.

The second stop is just two booths down from Natural Dazu and it is sweet! Obeny, is a gentle man who beams every time I ask to try one of his Doces, a mixture between a fruit preserve and a jelly. Think dulce de leche. In fact that's exactly what it is, Doces are sweet thick spreads and dulce de leche falls into the category os Doces. Obeny makes all different types of Doces. My favorite is the one made from purple potato. Pure heaven. However, the real sweet part of Mr. Obeny's Doces is the poems Mr. Obeny recites for each Doce you try.

And then right there next to Obeny's stand is another gentleman who make a sweet treat, caramelized coconut sprinkled with cinnamon  and puts them into cute little paper bags. This is one of my all time favorite street foods in the city. Luckily Praça Benedito Calixto is not the only place where you can find caramelized coconut but at Praça Benedito Calixto it seems to taste better. Maybe it's the portion, or the coconut he uses, or maybe it's eating it from a baggie with bright pink hearts all over it. For some reason caramelized coconut screams São Paulo to me and I love it.

The 4th place to hit up is also at Praça Benedito Calixto. After walking around some and building up an appetite, come back to the open food court and look for the booth with the Arabic food.  The rolled cabbage with ground pork and rice always hits the spot.

From Praça Benedito Calixto it's a quick walk and a subway ride to Liberdade, the Japantown of São Paulo. At Liberdade there are rows and rows of booths selling tempura, shrimp balls, even BBQ. The air is thick with deep fried smoke. It's pure delicious.

The tempura is good but what I really love about Liberdade is that every shop has a deep freezer on the front and inside are Melona bars. Other than Hawaii I've never been able to find Melona bars anywhere besides Liberdade. Melona bars are South-Korean melon flavored creamsicles. Buy two because one is never enough.

After Liberdade I go to Mercado Municipal, the Sao Paulo Municipal Market where all types of exotic fruits are stacked tall. Number seven on my list is more of an experience than just a food. Number seven is sampling fruits. At Mercado Municipal you'll be able to sample fruits that have names and flavors so exotic it's impossible to remember. Take some extra money just in case you want to buy some and bring it home for later.

But what Mercado Municipal is really famous for is the cod pastel. I wrote a whole post (or two) about pastel because it's my favorite food in the whole world. The market sells cod by the pound, and expensive olive oil, and other wonderful preserves. The smell at the open market of cod and oil sets the perfect ambience for the cod pastel. The pastel is fully stuffed with hot salty cod hugged by a thin crispy fried shell on the outside. 

The Mercado is also famous for their meat sandwiches, more specifically for the morttadela sandwiches. I'm a fan of morttadela, especially fried morttadela, but what I really enjoy is carne seca, sun dried meat. The ingredients for the sandwich all come from the Mercado. The sandwich above is made with sun dried meat, provolone, sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and fresh mozzarella. It's a great sandwich to share with a friend.

To end the day I go to Ave. Paulista, the most famous avenue in São Paulo. At night the museums are closed but the street is buzzing with people. There are small theaters sprinkled across the Avenue but my favorite place to go is Itau Cultural, a cultural hub with free or very inexpensive musical and theatrical performances. It's a great place to go if you're in the city. But before you go make sure to pick up some popcorn. All around Ave. Paulista are popcorn carts selling savory and sweet popcorn, perfect for a night snack. For me there is nothing like ending the day with some warm popcorn in my hand and the city lights above me.

I sure wish you were here.


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