Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sometimes Foods That Look Suspect Are In Fact Delicious...

...such as:

1. bananas passa, or dried bananas, one of my favorite emergency snacks here. They look like they're on the verge of decay, but are sticky sweet without sugar. However, there is no elegant way to eat them. Peel off a strip, your fingers get gummy, it looks like a sardine swinging in the air over your mouth, then gulp, delicious!

2. pamonha, a Brazilian "tamale" or a polenta of sorts that may look like someone spat out their half-chewed corn because it was too hot in their mouth, but that is pure corn joy. They take fresh corn, grind it up and juice it, then mix it with grated coconut or coconut milk, and wrap it in a corn husk and drop it in boiling water. The corn street vendors always have pamonha, boiled corn, and another corn treat called curau that is corn puréed with coconut milk into a kind of yellow pudding and put into a plastic cup for your convenience. I've heard of savory pamonha (filled with meat) but haven't encountered it yet. The Flavors of Brazil blog does a good job of describing pamonha and distinguishing it from tamales.

3. pão de mel, or honey bread, a sweet but not too sweet, spiced, soft cookie. Despite its homely aspect, it is quite tasty.

I couldn't resist taking the opportunity to play with my food and make a Pac-Man tableau.

4. inhame che

Back when I thought inhame [een-YAH-me], the Brazilian purple hairy yam, was taro, I made it into the Vietnamese dessert known as che khoai mon, or tarot che, "che" being the general name for a whole collection of Vietnamese desserts involving some combination of fruit, tarot, or beans (red beans, mung beans, black-eyed peas), coconut milk, sugar, and tapioca, sticky rice, or jello. But the two are almost the same thing—same purplish tinge, slightly sweet potato flavor, tendency toward viscosity. I made a lazy version: peeled and diced the inhame (with another root veg that I love called batata baroa added on a whim), boiled and strained the cubes, then dumped in a bottle of coconut milk and some sugar (no little tapioca balls, no sticky rice, no accurate measuring of proportions). I like to eat it warm, though some have it at room temperature.

It looks like sad, gray gruel, but I promise you it is so so tasty. Consider it my tropical-tropical South American-Southeast Asian fusion concoction. When I open my Brazilian-Vietnamese restaurant, this will be the dessert special. I'll ladle it into a crystal goblet adorned with a pineapple slice and a tiny paper umbrella so the tourists won't feel afraid. Another added bonus is that inhame seems to be the magic super vegetable that cures all ailments. Everyone here says, "Inhame limpa o sangue," that it "cleanses the blood," and that it helps boost the immune system, decreases inflammation, and cures dengue fever. I've been eating a lot of boiled inhame lately.


bee said...

i've always wanted to try pamonha! tropical climates produce the best eats

kale daikon said...

the street snacks here make me very happy, but I have to say I am aching for Bay Area produce. No heirloom tomatoes or tasty purple and yellow carrots or velvety fava greens and chive blossoms to be found here...

Rachel said...

Just found your blog. I LOVE it! And all of these things are delicious.

kale daikon said...

thank you, Rachel! it sounds like you too know a bit about Rio & Brazil.

Lee said...

Your inhame looks very much like what I call 'eddoe':

A plant I plan on trying to grow next year.

Great blog. Always enjoy.