The Orange Jello Obsession (And Much Tastier Brazilian Foods in Pictures)

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In São Paulo, around New Year’s Eve, Mark became obsessed with orange jello. It’s a fairly common dessert in “por kilo” buffet-style restaurants, although it’s not as much as in North America (… because Brazilians have better options?)

We had the jello discussion several times in Canada. Some of his friends apparently eat gelatin but I refuse to buy Jell-O cups because the nutritional contents of his lunchbox already makes me want to scream.

But Mark was really craving Brazilian jello. One night, I promise he could have some for dessert after finishing his plate. He did, and then he almost cried because he was full and he didn’t want jello anymore.

“Tomorrow, then!”

“But, but… it’s going to be THE SAME! I will have to eat healthy food first and then I’ll be FULL!”

“Nah, you can skip directly to jello, promise.”

The following day, he counted down the hours to jello time. “The mall closes at 10 p.m.!” he kept on reminding me. Meanwhile, Feng did buy him some jello at lunch, but he hated it because it was red and only orange jello tastes good.

We finally bought a damn cup of orange jello.

“Wait… have you ever had jello before?”

“I’ve heard of it!” Mark replied, slightly offended.

He looked at it, shook the plastic cup, opened it and took a spoonful.

Fifteen minutes later, he had eaten about 1/10 of it.

“It’s not that great, isn’t it?” I asked.

“It’s… too sweet,” replied the kid who would happily eat a kilo of sugar if given the chance.

And so ended the orange jello obsession.

It’s okay, we had much better options available.

It’s almost impossible to give you a full overview of Brazilian food because it’s as varied as the country’s culture. Even without getting into specific, elaborated regional dishes, staple food looks different from one city to another. Supermarket chains change too—in Rio, you’ll shop at Zona Sul, Pão de Açúcar or Hortifruiti, in Florianópolis you’ll buy groceries at Supermercados Imperatriz or Angeloni, while in São Paulo, Carrefour is everywhere.

Brazilian care about bread. The basic one is the very light pão francês (it does get soggy with the humid weather, though!) but there’s also sweet bread, bread with raisins or nuts, corn bread, cassava bread, multigrain bread, flat bread, Italian bread, etc. The king of the pães isn’t technically a bread since you can’t really make a sandwich with it—it’s the tasty, cheesy, soft and chewy pão de queijo.

The keywords for cheap, savoury snacks are frango (chicken), carne (beef), presunto (ham), peito de peru (turkey breast), bacalhau (dried and salted cod) and camarão (shrimp). These are the most common filling for empadas (mini pot pies), pastéis (fried pies), mini-calzones or croissants, usually mixed with Catupiry (a brand of cream cheese), requeijão (liquid, cottage-cheese like spread) or ricotta. Polenghi, a brand of cheese spread much like The Laughing Cow, is also popular, but in sandwiches only. Coxinhas (fried mashed potatoes covered in batter and filled with shredded chicken) are a classic option. You can buy savoury snacks just about anywhere, including in supermarkets, in bakeries and in the many juice bars.

Brazilians love cake (bolo). When I’m queuing at the supermarket, I tend to browse the magazines displayed in the checkout aisle and the “Does cake make you gain weight?” question comes back often enough on the front page of women’s magazines, which always makes me laugh. There are cakes everywhere (and even entire stores selling only Bundt cake, like Casa de Bolos), and then if you don’t feel like having a slice of the very popular carrot cake with chocolate icing, you can always buy a doce português like a pastel de Belem (egg tart). A smaller, more chocolate-y option is the brigadeiro, a chocolate truffle.

Sick of Brazilian food? Craving fast food? Well, you could have a much better burger experience in any Brazilian restaurant—Brazilian sandwiches are pretty huge and awesome… Otherwise, go to Bob’s and picture the CEO trying to find a name for the first Brazilian fast-food chain—“Okay, we need to sound American! Let’s go with… Bob!”

In Brazil, I love going to the supermarket when I’m tired, because many of them offer free coffee while you shop. I also spend way too much time wandering around and checking out new foods and brands, but that’s another issue…

So, what did we eat? In São Paulo, we had a lot of Japanese food, mostly yakisoba (fried noodles) and lamen from the popular Sukiya fast-food chain. In Rio, I ate empadas (mini pot pies) and savoury baked pies. In Florianópolis, I had mini-calzones and veggie pies, among other foods.

Food in Brazil is cheap and interesting and I have yet to eat something I hate—but that may be because I haven’t tried orange jello…

Mark and the orange jello, Shopping Center 3, Avenida Paulista, São Paulo

Mark and the orange jello, Shopping Center 3, Avenida Paulista, São Paulo

Extra Hipermercado Av. Brigadeiro Luís Antônio in São Paulo

Extra Hipermercado Av. Brigadeiro Luís Antônio in São Paulo

Japanese food at Empório Azuki, R. Galvão Bueno, 16 – Liberdade, São Paulo

Boiled corn meets pop corn on Avenida Paulista, São Paulo

Coffee machine in São Paulo

Bolo de cenoura at the Casa do pao de queijo on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo

Quindim and other Portuguese sweet desserts in São Paulo

Condensed milk at the Extra Hipermercado Av. Brigadeiro Luís Antônio in São Paulo

Yakisoba from one of the food stalls on Avenida Paulista, São Paulo

Mark eating a Coxinha in São Paulo

Mark eating a Coxinha in São Paulo

Mark eating a brigadeiro in São Paulo

Mark eating a brigadeiro in São Paulo

Fruits at Casa da Fruta, a juice bar on R. Galvão Bueno, 187, Liberdade, São Paulo

Fruits at Casa da Fruta, a juice bar R. Galvão Bueno, 187, Liberdade, São Paulo

Savoury snacks at Casa da Fruta, a juice bar on R. Galvão Bueno, 187, Liberdade, São Paulo

Waiting for my lemon juice at Casa da Fruta, a juice bar on R. Galvão Bueno, 187, Liberdade, São Paulo

Coconuts, Praça da Liberdade, São Paulo

Coconuts, Praça da Liberdade, São Paulo

Sugarcanes, Praça da Liberdade, São Paulo

Making sugarcane juice, Praça da Liberdade, São Paulo

Casa do Pão, R. Marquês de Abrantes, 110 – Loja A – Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro

Pastel de Belem, Rio de Janeiro

Pastel de Belem, Casa República, R. do Catete, 104 – Catete, Rio de Janeiro

Casa República, R. do Catete, 104 – Catete, Rio de Janeiro

Casa República, R. do Catete, 104 – Catete, Rio de Janeiro

Savoury snacks, Rio de Janeiro

Coxinhas, Rio de Janeiro

Codfish, Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

Store selling all kinds of packaged cookies and sweets, Codfish, Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

Panificação Atlântica, R. Min. Viveiros de Castro, 53 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

Panificação Voluntários, R. Voluntários da Pátria, 201 – Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro

Panificação Voluntários, R. Voluntários da Pátria, 201 – Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro

Panificação Voluntários, R. Voluntários da Pátria, 201 – Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro

Cake on Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

Mercado Público de Florianópolis, R. Jerônimo Coelho, 60 – Centro, Florianópolis

Mercado Público de Florianópolis, R. Jerônimo Coelho, 60 – Centro, Florianópolis

Mercado Público de Florianópolis, R. Jerônimo Coelho, 60 – Centro, Florianópolis

Mercado Público de Florianópolis, R. Jerônimo Coelho, 60 – Centro, Florianópolis

Beiramar Shopping, R. Bocaiúva, 2468 – Centro, Florianópolis

Beiramar Shopping, R. Bocaiúva, 2468 – Centro, Florianópolis

Beiramar Shopping, R. Bocaiúva, 2468 – Centro, Florianópolis

Beiramar Shopping, R. Bocaiúva, 2468 – Centro, Florianópolis

Free coffee at Hippo Supermercados, R. Alm. Alvim, 555 – Centro, Florianópolis

Praia dos Ingleses, Florianópolis

Praia dos Ingleses, Florianópolis

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

6 Comments

  1. Martin Penwald on

    Have you seen the animated movie Titan A.E. ? The main character was as inspired as Bob’s CEO to name his new planet.

    Life biggest deceiptions : when good looking food is not really good.

    • I haven’t seen it, must check the reference 🙂

      I hate good-looking food that tastes awful. French food is like that sometime, fancy restaurants put too much effort into making it look good but at the end of the day, you just have three green beans a colourful sauce in your plate.

  2. I love going to Supermarket when I travell and find snacks and beverages which are not available in my country!!! that watermellon-shaped as a pedestrian blocker are cute! the city planners are so artistic

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