To experience a city as culturally rich as Salvador, you have to sink your teeth in and devour every bite.
The one-time capital and heart of Afro-Brazilian culture, Salvador da Bahia is a major landmark in Brazilian music, architecture and cuisine.
Hungry for a deeper understanding, I set out to discover the city through the flavors that run through the streets.
With help from a local friend, I traversed the cobblestone walkways of Pelourinho (historical center), eating anything and everything the food stalls served up.
I started with a Brazilian staple and something I’d seen before – Acaraje. The crunchy, fried ball of deliciousness is like a giant falafel stuffed with shrimp, veggie salsa and a spicy cream of fish and shrimp past cooked in peanut sauce (called caruru and/or vatapá).
Served by a woman in traditional clothing and eaten on a small plastic stool in the street, this was the perfect start to tasting Salvador.
Next up was Caldo de Sururu, a spicy seafood chowder that warmed my body and tickled my taste buds. It consisted of mussels, shrimp and crab in a garlicky tomato-based broth that I wolfed down in minutes.
I love the availability of fresh seafood and bold spices here in the Northeast, which is much different than the traditional cuisine I’ve experienced in Southern Brazil.
I licked the bowl clean and told the owner that I’d be back for seconds.
Feeling confident from the success of my first two roadside dishes, I stretched my boundaries a bit and found a lady serving passarinha, or cow pancreas.
The color was black, the method was fried and the taste was car tire.
Even served with green peppers, onions and a spicy salsa couldn’t mask the strong flavors and chewy texture for me.
Although it didn’t please my palate, I’m glad I tried it. Just as with any travel experience, if you always stay within your comfort zone you’ll be missing the true essence of the environment your in.
After the pancreas, I had to get something sweet to chase away the aftertaste, so I tracked down a Bolinho de Estudante.
At first I thought it was just a cinnamon and sugar covered donut but upon first bite, I realized it was a completely different substance.
It’s a gooey, tapioca-filled, torpedo-shaped ball of sweetness that is rich and heavy. The texture can best be explained as doughy and gelatin – really good in small doses.
In between all the “culinary research,” my friend introduced me to the local liquor of choice. While cachaça reigns supreme across the country, many places across the country infuse the beloved alcohol with different flavors.
She showed me a place where you can try the infused cachaças, from wooden kegs lining the dark wood walls. The famous one in Salvador is clove (cravinho), but my favorites were cinnamon, passion fruit and pineapple.
We grabbed a few different flavor shots and walked out into the main square to listen to live music and let my stomach and mind digest my first day in Salvador.
If the food is any representation of the place, I think I’m going to like it here.
It’s flavorful, distinct and delicious – I can’t wait to see what’s on the menu for tomorrow. You can checkout loanora for financial help.