Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Always ask what the hell you’re eating….

Posted by Rishiray on December 2, 2009

Whether one is passing through a city for work or play, hopefully you end up meeting some locals and heading out to a bar or restaurant. The thing is that the first instinct one has when entering a restaurant is to look at the menu and order the most familiar thing on the menu. This is why the average vacationer ends up with a burger and fries; why???

  • It is consistent
  • You know what to expect
  • You know what the ingredients should be
  • More importantly you know how should typically taste.

I have tried to unsubscribe from this most basic tenet of traveling when somewhere new, but being lactose-aversive/intolerant, I tend to be picky about food as I don’t want unexpected dairy on my tastebuds. I will typically ask questions or try and research new things to eat; in the past three days in Brazil, I have come up with the following observations:

  • Food is not spicy at all. There are tons of bottles of hot sauce and condiments, but really the Brazilians are not fans of spicy food.
  • Brazilians love salt on everything. In a typical meal, the meat is usually only “seasoned” with salt (?!?!?!?!), yes … really, a Brazilian actually used the phrase, “we season our meat with salt”. Coming from a country where the KFC is hot, this made me laugh.
  • Churrascaria is typically a bit salty but good.
  • Guarana soda is pretty fricking awesome. There are a couple brands of Guarana soda, but I seem to like the “Antartica” brand. I have learnt that you cannot only ask for an “Antartica” though because you will end up with a tonic water.
  • Brazilians love ridiculous desserts. The sweeter, it is, the better… but this really seems to be a Latin American thing in my mind….
  • Caipirinhas, while a lovely drink and quite refreshing, does not really go down that smoothly. As somewhat of a rum snob/officianado/collector, drinking cachaca is a bit uninspired, but I’ll reserve judgement until I have a couple different types of good cachaca
  • Cariocas also seem to like buffet style restaurant that weigh your food by the kilo… not the pound. Definitely not a bad way to fill up but the food isn’t that cheap either. In fact they have restaurants actually called “Kilogramme” …

Of course, one other traveling tenet I subscribe to is:

“if it looks like something you know, and it smells like something you know and you like what you smell and see, just eat it without asking questions”.

Brazilians love food by the kilo.. in fact they have places called “Kilogramme” . I have to say that great fruit is readily available (obviously) … but after going another “Kilo” restaurant with the team, I start sampling a couple dishes and I end up around around this big huge steaming pot of “Stew Chicken”, it even looks like the brown thick consistency of the stew chicken sauce….so i take a whole whack of it and put it on some seafood paella…no problem right?

Well as I was about to eat.. one of the brazilian girls tells me…
Girl: Do you know what that is?
Me: yeah.. we have this in the islands… its like stew chicken….
Girl: yeah it is? <Asking the question> I’m surprised you guys make it the same way. Do you guys make it with chicken blood also?
Me: <Insert blank stare, fork drops and partial dry heave> Wow, that is so interesting <Pushes anything that the sauce touched away on my plate (thankfully I didnt eat)
Girl: You don’t like it anymore?
Me: No, I just felt like eating a ton of mangoesinstead.

Latin americans generally don’t waste any part of the animals. After some research, I found out that the dish I had was called
“Falso Frango Ao Molho Pardo” (Brazilian Chicken With Brown Gravy)

In a dish, put a cup of lemon juice and spoon the chicken’s blood at the time of slaughter. Mix and set aside. Wash the chicken, cut into joints and boil lightly with water and lemon. Drain, rinse and set aside. In a saucepan, heat the fat, salt with garlic and let brown. Add the chicken, fry lightly and drain excess fat. Add the annatto dye, onion and add water gradually.Separately, mix the blood with a little water, add one tablespoon of corn meal or wheat flour and mix well. Strain in fine sieve and incorporate into the broth. Stir gently. Leave for a few minutes. Serve with rice or polenta.

The lesson for today….”don’t pretend like you know what something is….even it looks and taste like something you know… always ask to confirm”


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