The Secret To One Brazilian Street Treat: Make It With Love

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Melissa Block is in Olinda, Brazil where a street vendor teaches her the secret to making Brazilian-style tapioca.


We end this hour with a taste of Brazil. Our co-host, Melissa Block, is there reporting for us all this week. And she sent us this audio postcard.


You can't come to Brazil without thinking about the food, and we have come to Alto da Se, the high point in the old, old Portuguese part of Olinda in Northeastern Brazil, centuries and centuries old. And we're here to learn about a specialty called tapioca. Tell me your name.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken) Zeinha.

BLOCK: And Zeinha is going to show me how to make tapioca. It's sort of a pancake made with the starch from cassava.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: OK. So you're taking the starch, the powder from the cassava root - it's a white powder - and you spread it in a little pan that's kept right on top of really hot charcoal set up in a metal grate right next to your stand here.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: And you're putting grated coconut on top.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: A slice of cheese - oh, two slices of cheese.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: Place just a little bit of butter on top if you want. And we want. And you flipped it over.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: It's already ready?

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: Ah. And you folded it in half. And that's it?

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: It's ready. Obrigada. So it's a thick, white pancake. It's kind of spongy. And It's got this beautiful brown filling inside of the cheese that's melted and the coconut. And here it goes. I'm going to take a bite. Mm. Delicioso.

ZEINHA: Delicioso.

BLOCK: Delicioso. So there's a little crunch from the coconut, and the cheese is really smooth and creamy. Mm. Wow, it's really good.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: (Foreign language spoken) How long have you been making these?

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: Forty-three years. What's the secret to making a great tapioca?

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: There's no secret to making those. You just have to make it with lots of love.

ZEINHA: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: Mm-hmm. So I can make this at home, but it's better here. Your flavor is different. Well, Dona Zeinha, you have a lot of customers here. I'm going to let you get back to them. Muito obrigada.

ZEINHA: Obrigada.

SIEGEL: That's our co-host Melissa Block, sampling some street food in northern Brazil. You can find pictures of Zeinha and her tapioca stand on our Tumblr:



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