Salvador, Brazil, for many tourists, appears as a city that never sleeps. In the day, the streets are filled with people on their way to work, older folk accompanied with their grandchildren on the way to a fruit market, and young people meeting friends on corners with backpacks over their shoulders. Then the sounds of Salvador become eclipsed by the occasional car blasting pagode music.
Although, residents of this coastline metropolis often work long hours selling coconuts on the streets, waiting tables at local restaurants, or crafting multicolored tapestries to be hung on walls or displayed on tables, most still carve out time for laughter with friends and neighbors at local hangouts. They find time in Pelourhino where live music, dancing and people watching are free of charge every night of the week. They also eat.
Traditional Afro-Brazilian cuisine, the foods of Salvador made up of starch, meats, sweets, and carbs, are cooked with other ingredients whose origin points to the west coast of Africa, come from local growers. During my stay in Salvador, I noticed that folks take pleasure in their food. Whether it means stopping on the street to buy Acaraje or sitting down with family for lunch, they celebrate life with each other in the evenings and weekends.
Breakfast is the meal I look forward to most. I enjoyed coffee, sweet pound cake, boiled platanos or yucca root – also known as Aipim – milky cheese and crackers, slices of mango, pineapple or melon sautéed in butter or fried.
However, the biggest meal of the day is lunch. Rice and beans mixed with sausages, chicken or muceca (fish sautéed in lemon and garlic sprinkled with tomatoes and other spices) would be prepared with farinha, a kind of ground up yucca that thickens the texture of whatever it is added to. Pineapple or melon juice and possibly sweetened coconut would satiate taste buds after the meal. Café do noiche, or dinner, was much smaller and more like breakfast. I often had cake, coffee, cheese, crackers, fried yucca and sprinkles of tapioca to add to my coffee.
Filled with fantastic restaurants, and speckled with a few vegetarian ones, it is easy to find tasty and filling food. Namely, Grau de Bico, a vegetarian restaurant that serves food per kilo, as well as Health Valley which is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Salvador in my opinion. Acaraje da Dinha is also a local favorite and Casa de Yemanja in Rio Vermelho is a very cool bar.
From great fruits, juices, and sweets, to salty salgados (small appetizers), cold beer or cashasa (sugarcane alchohol), muceca, sautéed collard greens and cheese, Salvador is a city with a rich history whose cuisine is as dynamic as the culture of the Bahians that live there.