June 14, 2012
CH and I have relocated to Rio for work (and personal pursuits) and finally, we now live in the tropics. But this is not the Amazon, not even close. The Amazon rain forest is thousands of miles away.
In this particular neighborhood in Rio, literally just outside our window, we have the largest urban tropical forest found within a city. With this, we have a bunch of new animal neighbors and loads of vegetation and fruit-baring trees.
Bug catching or deep in thought, planning his next home invasion robbery.
We have visitors from a gang of monkeys, and an even larger gang of marmosets. The monkeys have invaded our place twice now and if you tally it up, they’ve stolen a loaf of bread, bananas, and a packet of Korean chips.
Looking cute waiting his turn at the banana tree.
The alluring smell of fruit brings them to the trees outside, daily, but when houses are so close to their habitat it must be enticing to swipe a bag of chips now and then. They come for the fruit and stay for the… chips.
Marmoset mother and child.
I am no different. Brasil hosts fuck tons of fruit, and squeezed from that fruit, comes the juice. Like my friendly new neighbors, I wanted it, so I headed to my local juice shop to get me some. Due to Rio’s intense search for the perfect body (aka juicy booty), they consume a lot of juice and have become a center for all sorts of juice craziness.
Just down the road we have the local Rio chain, Bibi Sucos, a juice joint that has been around for decades. Bibi offers a mean variety of fruits, some unheard of outside of Brasil. With less than ten shops dotted around the city, Bibi is more family style, and the service at my local one is great. They do blended drinks too. They serves sandwiches, breakfast, they are known for variety. It’s basically a counter diner with fresh ingredients.
I ordered açaí (my favorite) and two at random and here is what we got.
Fruta–do-Conde: or sugar apple is a sectional fruit that looks like an artichoke or pinecone, but its sweetness differentiates itself.
The smooth white custard is gooey with an edible grainy green skin that blends nicely into the juice. The skin is grainy, providing texture that dissolves when in the mouth. The thick creamy custard is smooth but thick without the skin- so the skin gives it an oomph factor.
The big black seeds found in the normal fruit are no where to be seen in the juice — and that is fine (as the seeds can be ground down and used to get rid of lice). The juice is smooth, thick, white, and creamy.
The texture from the skin dissolves as it goes down and rewards the thick creaminess. No wonder they call this the custard pineapple.
Batter up: Cupuaçu!
Cupuaçu (recommended by the owner) is found mostly in the north east and in the Amazon basin. Here, cupuaçu is sold and transported as a pulp and at Bibi, it is a less popular menu item.
HOLY LORD: It is extremely sour without sugar, but worth a try as I haven’t had much else like it. It stays on the tongue, relaxing like a citric vitamin in the back of the throat without the citrus component, after some sugar added — other sources say it is a taste comparable to pear with banana but less sweet. Funny, no sources mentioned, “It is sour as hell — must add sugar!”
Then there is my baby, my açaí. I live for this stuff.
Açaí berries ground up into a pulp are served here and heavily laden with sugar, guarana powder, and banana served in a bowl, which contrasts with northern Brasilian tradition where it is served as a savory dish and often eaten with fish.
I have leaned heavily on açaí since my arrival to the country. It is my snack of choice, sold like a frozen yogurt, and served at diners and lunch counters like Bibi all over the place. The reason for its popularity is that it gives you a buzz! Like wrapping me in a blanket of positivity. The walk home is always good after an açaí. The sweet, pulpy yet smooth dark purple goop is served in a bowl and usually topped with bananas and sometimes granola if you are feeling crunchy.
Warning: Eat it slow or you will most definitely freeze your brain.