Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pastels and Sugar Cane Juice

Pasteis and Sugar Cane Juice! Its everywhere here in Brazil. You can find the delectable duo at the shopping markets on the weekends or you can find them at your local lanchonete (cafeteria) station. A pastel is a delicious deep fried bread pouch pastry and is typically served with a side of "caldo de cana" or sugar cane juice.

Pastel filled with ham and cheese
I have found that for many Brazilians, pastels serve as a quick convenient lunch with almost anything you like. Pastel fillings can include various items such as ham, beef, chicken, tomatoes, onions, and of course cheese. What I have discovered is that pastels have been apart of Brazilian culture for almost a century. Many food historians believe that the origin of the pastels can be traced back to the early 20th century wave of Japanese immigration to Brazil. As newly-arrived immigrants from Japan began to leave the coffee plantations and move into the cities of southern Brazil one of the ways to succeed there was to open a restaurant. Anti-Japanese sentiments were strong at that time, and Japanese cuisine was unknown, so most of these restaurateurs opened Chinese restaurants. One always-popular item in such restaurants was the deep-fried spring roll, and it is from these small rolls that the pastel supposedly developed. Pastels come into all types of shapes; they can round, rectangular, or oval. Whatever shape you want your pastel to come in, Brazil has it! I wonder if McDonald's apple pies have any history with the pastels of Brazil. Hmmm.....!
The makings of caldo de cana (sugar cane juice)

As I enjoyed my pastel, I was able to witness the makings of caldo de cana. It was very interesting. For the life of me, I could not figure out how it was possible to create a liquid sugar drink from a cane of sugar which resembled a simplistic wooden stick to me. Anyways, if you ever get a chance to come to Brazil, I strongly suggest you grab a pastel, bursting at the seams, along with some caldo de cana. It is a such wonderful yet simple lunch meal. 

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