Poisonous peel and other banana mysteries
It is said that travelling broadens your mind and educates the traveller. And while this sounds like a very good excuse to book the next vacation, I firmly believe it is true. Having spent a wile in the US made me clear, for example, how German I was and it made me like some qualities you associate with Germany and that I was very annoyed of before. And maybe it’s not the worst result of being abroad, to see your own culture in another light, to understand that most things work very differently in other places of the world. There are always more possibilities in the world than you might think. Take banana peel for example.
Home of the sweet banana
When I’ve been to Brazil the first time I realized that I didn’t know a lot about Brazilian or tropical fruits and that was even true for one fruit which is a basic nutriment in Germany: bananas. Because in Brazil there is a variety of Bananas, I didn’t know existed. In Germany people are only used to one kind of banana (close to the Brazilian “banana nanica”), in the last years baby bananas have also become popular (the “banana prata”) and as something very excotic: cooking bananas (“banana da terra”). My first surprise in Brazil was to find out that bananas can actually be very sweet and full of taste. Because bananas shipped to Germany are usually picked green, they ripen on the ship and they lack taste. But not only are bananas sweeter and richer in aroma, there are also more varieties than the ones above. “Banana maça” for example is a small banana that tastes like apple (therefore the name) and “banana pacova” is a relative to the “banana da terra” mostly used for frying.
Peel it – banana peel is good to eat
Another banana surprise I’ve made just recently: banana peel is edible and nutritive, rich in vitamin, fibres etc.. Imagine my surprise after mindlessly throwing away banana peel for decades. And even more so since bananas in Germany come from giant mono-cultures that require heavy use of insecticides, pesticides and what else, banana peel is said to be almost poisonous and people are advised to wash their hands after peeling a banana before eating the fruit! Yes, you can eat banana peel and it seems to be a versatile food as well. It does not only make delicious sweets and cake (English recipe), you can also use it for salty dishes in a curry (English recipe) or even as a substitute for meat or to make a tea. You can find 5 easy recipes here.
Banana peel hamburger at Quiosque do Romildo – Canal 6
To complete my discovery of banana peel as a food resource, I’ve also recently found out that there is a possibility to try it in Santos. Even more exciting, it is one of the quiosques in the beach park which are normally and unfortunately known for their identical and pretty low quality, greasy food. But “Quiosque do Romildo” at Canal 6 (here is their Facebook page) seem to be an exception to this rule. Their “Banana peel hamburger” was the winning entry in a competition for better food at the beach quiosques and it gives you an excellent opportunity to try some “new” old food. The banana peel has an interesting but not very strong taste but a much more soft texture than real meat. This was the only problem with the banana peel burger at Romildo’s: the taste was good, but they used a bread which was quite stiff – not soft as a normal hamburger bun – and this way the bread mashed the banana peel burger. But hey, it is definitely worth an experience.
There is hardly a more working class food than Döner in Berlin, except the Currywurst maybe. Döner and Currywurst are the two culinary discoveries that Berlin brought to German and international cuisine. And for a reason that I do not fully understand, Brazilians tend to love both. Currywurst, Currywurst-flavored potato chips, Döner, Döner-flavored potato chips – they hit the Brazilian taste right on. Maybe this has to do with the fact, that this wonderful country lacks a sufficient infrastructure of Currywurst and Döner, only a big city like São Paulo seems to be able to offer at least some options (even if they sell Currywurst with Bretzel whereas the whole world knows that you eat Currywurst either with french fries or with an old bun).
And while the city of Santos was going crazy a short while ago over the opening of the first Starbucks Coffee Shop in a Shopping Center – with people waiting in line for an hour to get one of the overpriced and not very tasty coffees) – I was very happy to find a small place just off the heart of Gonzaga, which is Praça da Independencia with Santos first and only Döner! It finally arrived! Of course I had to try it the same day.
While a tax-evading and globally operating company like Starbucks with its products that deny local differences represents a lot of what I think is wrong with capitalism, Mumatz Kebab Döner in Rua Marechal Deodoro number 6 is just right for me. Ok, it’s a franchise, but at the moment it only consists of three stores and their website seems appealingly neglected, mentioning the opening of a new store in Santos „soon“ while it has already been opened over a month ago.
But let’s get to the important information: how is the Döner? I was accompanied by an expert in Döner and Currywurst and we both had to agree, that we were surprised by not only the quality but also the taste and the price of the Döner. The Döner comes as a „Dürüm“ which means with only very flat pancake-like piece of bread and not one of those big chunks. There was a choice between regular Döner, chicken Döner and Falafel, which is more than you sometimes see in Döner shops in Berlin. And while the taste of the french fries was a bit to „arabic“ for my taste, the Döner itself was close to the original. The price was ok, 14 Reais for a Döner (about 4,50 Euros) is not close to how cheap it is in Berlin, but for an „imported speciality“ in Brazil it is fair. A whole menu with french fries and a soft drink is 23 Reais (about 7 Euro).
For a taste of Berlin or a quick-lunch I can recommend it. Without a doubt.
Brazil is a great country for fast food. It is also a great country for street food, and both of them go very well together. Brazilians like to eat and they like to talk about food. That might seem strange to foreigners, because cheap food in Brazil is usually simple and/or fried and there are tourists who complain about the “unhealthy” and boring Brazilian food. Well, like in so many countries on this planet, good food is a little more expensive, cheap food tends to be…. cheap. And simple. But that doesn’t mean that there are differences in quality and taste.
Today I want to introduce you to something very, VERY Brazilian, the “pastel”. Because I had two wonderful “Pastel Carioca” in Café Carioca the other day, which is located in the historic center of Santos, directly on Praça Mauá and it is well worth a visit.
Very Brazilian: pastel
To me this is maybe the most Brazilian street food, at least of the southeast states. Because here you wherever there are people, there will be a mobile stand selling pastel. Some of these small food stalls even have fixed locations on busy streets or squares and for some Brazilians they are a good lunch option, or an afternoon snack.
When I visited Brazil for the first times I did not become a friend of pastel. It seemed rather boring to me, and not only because of its rather unspectecular appearance. Take a fluffy dough (some say to make it really crispy there has to be cachaça in it), form it into a pocket, put some filling inside (meat, palm heart, bacalhau etc.) and fried it in oil until crispy. That is a pastel and it sounded incredibly boring to me. And a bad pastel is boring: there is nothing but crumbly, crispy dough that tastes like frying oil, and a filling without much more taste. At least, since it is fried, it is save to eat on the street.
Very traditional in Santos: a pastel at Café Carioca
It took me some years to warm up to pastel. There are stores that do not sell anything else and even some chains, but I still didn’t get the hype. That was until I visited the famous Café Carioca here in Santos (Praça Visconde de Maua, 1 – Centro) in the heart of the historic city center of Santos . It dates back to 1939 and it is famous for its pastel. It is so famous around here, that when I told a friend from Santos, I frequently go to the historic center (to visit the Policia Federal – long story) and that I’ve never had a pastel carioca, she got really upset. Really upset!! So next time I had to try, despite my indifference until that day.
Even though there are “only” nine different types of pastel, I have to admit: these pastels are good. I tried one of “siri” which is crab meat, and another one of “carne seca” which is something like beef jerky and both of them were very good. The pastel is not very big, but the dough is formed into a pocket which is almost completely filled with a nicely seasoned filling. The pastel was fresh, crispy and tasty, and to soothe your health conscience I can recommend a glass of fresh pineapple juice with it. It was definitely not the last time I’ve visited Café Carioca.
In a city where cultural events and this kind of excitement are scarce and the main attraction is hanging out at the city beach that stretches over kilometers on the bay to the ocean, you can’t be picky. And even though I am not interested in downhill as a sport very much (if you have a bike – why take the stairs?) I appreciate this event as a change in the city atmosphere. As a distraction.
Every year in the middle of February the City Downhill World Tour is holding a race in the city. If you are interested, check out the Citydownhill website for details. You can also watch a test-run from a helmet-cam, if you want to see the many steps from Monte Serra fly past you faster than you will ever see them again – I will try to remember that next time I climb the stairs up to enjoy the beautiful view from the top of Monte Serrat or when the church procession is carrying the Madonna of Nossa Senhora de Monte Serrat up there again.
Recently you have a good chance to see me in the afternoon between Canal 1 and Canal 2 or at sunset running at the beach up to Canal 3 or 4. But even if you’re not interested in my personal (fitness) life – which I can absolutely understand – this website might have something for you. Beautiful videos of New Years fireworks and passing ships as well as some webcams (a little advertisement in the beginning) to get an impression of what is happening at the beach and around live. You can also check out the surf and how crowded the beach is. Charming.
December 21st was not only the beginning of summer here in Brazil, it was also a very special music day and I was happy to be able to celebrate this day with classic music on the beach. It reminded me of Fete de la musique in Berlin, even though it was only a coincidence that OSESP’s concert in Santos fell on the longest day this year. I didn’t mind.
OSESP is the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (homepage) and one of the largest and best known orchestras of South America, and it is touring the world and Brazil quite extensively. Traditionally they end their year and their itinerary before Christmas with a free concert at the beach close to Gonzaga (Canal 3) here in Santos. This year they had a short homage to Brazilian composer Dorival Caymmi and after this the Carmina Burana from Carl Orff to present. The dome-structure, which was erected on the beach to protect the orchestra, choir and the singers from wind and rain was very impressive, but luckily the crazy rain which flooded some parts of Santos came 24 hours later and we had a beautiful and very relaxed evening at the beach.
Contrary to the big open-air concerts I know – like the annual Classic Open Air on Gendarmenmarkt, one of the most beautiful places in Berlin – the concert in Santos was free. There was a giant stage, a sound system, chairs but despite all of this the concert didn’t cost anything. Most people brought their own beach chairs and blankets, sat down in the beach in front of the stage and chilled in the sand. Kids playing in the bacground, feet in the sand and OSESP playing Carmina Burana has been an awesome experience and very contrary to the classical concerts I attended when I was a teenager – deeply serious and stiff events with a strict dress-code and no reason to have fun, only to take pleasure in the music. The OSESP concert in Santos was almost the exact opposite: people in shorts, havaianas and many of them without a shirt (the day had been 34 degrees hot) chilling at the beach, feet in the sand and a sunset in the bacl. It has been an amazing final to this year indeed.
Another small and interesting difference to Germany: OSESP has a blog about its itinerary concerts with pictures (like the one above) in high resolution to download and use – something very hard to find in Germany, where you are not even allowed to take pictures of artworks in many public museums. Did I say stiff? Not arrived in the 21st century I should add.