October 19, 2010

Super Faminto: Mercadão, São Paulo’s Municipal Market

by Bryan Sanders

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*Mercadão = Big market

The Mercado Municipal took four years to build and, once completed in 1932, was used by rebels in the “civil constitutionalist revolution” to hold and store weapons. It finally had its grand opening in 1933 as a market. It was built by the river (which is paved nowadays) to allow the freshest fruit to arrive by small boat.

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Walking up to this building unleashed the same nostalgia I had when approaching the Great Western Forum, where the Los Angeles Lakers used to play when I was a kid: vendors selling food and sodas and cars, herded by parking lot attendants into their spaces. My excitement grew on sight of this old building.

This is the giant of markets, the biggest in São Paulo definitely. There are thousands of employees as you walk up and down the food alleys cutting into their selection to give you a taste hoping you will buy. Imagine Costco’s free samples but these freebies aren’t full of trans fat and red 40 to keep their color.

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Inside it looks and feels like an old train station because of its great size and windows. Instead of trains there are thousands of people and booths peddling food– lots and lots and lots of food.

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Once in, we were damn hungry and ate mortadellas and pasties at the famous Hocca Bar.

Hanging from butcher racks were whole pigs, rolled up sausages, cheeses, dried fruits, a million types of fruit and somewhere there was the comforting stink of fish.

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Some  fruit vendors turn their backs as I snap away, others offer me free goodness- smile and ask me in either English or Portuguese where I am from. It’s easy to make friends here.

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But still others dismiss me as just another stupid tourist in the way, taking pictures of the very ordinary thing they have to see day in and day out.

Starfruit: The Brazilian fruit.

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A banana family reunion.

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The fruit of chocolate is damn expensive.

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Here are some lovely Soursops (Graviólas) paired nicely with cleaning products.

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Figs wrapped in cute little paper.

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Caju apples ready to be eaten. Caju juice is currently in our fridge.

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My soon to be brother-in-law Felipe, with his new Morango (strawberry) earrings.

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“Delicia Pomegranates”

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Loquats.

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Artichokes.

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Tangerines.

Lychee aka litchi: Don’t eat the seeds they taste like poisonous snakes.

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I have never seen some of these fruits before. Various colors, sizes, shapes, and textures all begging me to try.

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I try as many as I can, but realize especially after a Mortadella sandwich, that I will have to return another day.

Map

MERCADO MUNICIPAL
Rua da Cantareira, 306
Centro, São Paulo
T: 011.3228.0673

FAT MAP

4 Comments

  • Posted October 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    That is an amazing market. I had fruit of cacao once and it was delicious. I didn’t realise there were such varieties as caju apple (which I’ve never seen before) and you even have mangosteen!

  • Anders
    Posted October 20, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Oh the incredible wealth and variety that has fallen out of Mother Nature’s juicy vagina – awesome post!

  • Bryan
    Posted October 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    It is important to mention, the brand name of the pigs hanging out are Porco Feliz a.k.a. Happy Pigs.

    Cashew Fruit, in North America, are known for their nuts (conveniently plucked off the top) but down here the juice is one of the sweetest around. I love cashew nuts but the juice is rad.

    Last pictured is Mangosteen

  • Gisele Cano
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Have you tasted Goiaba? I love it, and the juice is as good as the fruit.

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