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

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

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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: consideringbrazil.tumblr.com.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: