Tag Archives: esfiha

Syrian Food in Rio de Janeiro (and Brazil)

syriabrazilThere are two athletes from Syria on the Refugee Olympic Team, and two others on the team who currently train in Brazil. However, the connection between Syria and Brazil is not new. When we were in Brazil, we were pleasantly surprised at the number of Middle Eastern restaurants, from high-end fine dining to humble corner shops. We love traditional Brazilian food, but we like to try something different every once in a while, and we often turned to Syrian or Lebanese food for a change of pace. This is not just a cuisine trend in the country, there has been a large Syrian population in Brazil for over 100 years, and they are one of the most deeply established immigrant communities in Brazil. Now, there is a newer wave of immigrants fleeing the current conflict in Syria. One of the ways that this new wave of Syrians is contributing to Brazilian culture is through their food enterprises, such as Ahmad Ryad Hamada’s Syrian snack cart and Anas Rjab’s catering service, Simsim.

Kibbe

Kibbe at Al-Kuwait in Rio

Even before the newest Syrian arrivals, you could find foods that are traditionally Levantine all over Rio de Janeiro, as well as other places in Brazil, especially São Paulo. The first time we had the national food of Syria – kibbeh – was actually in Brazil! You will find kibbe and esfiha (small triangle shaped filled dough) at snack shops throughout Brazil, whether or not they have primarily Middle Eastern menus, showing how much Brazilians have adopted Syrian dishes as their own. Syrian influence can also be seen in that pita-like bread is called Pão Sirio (Syrian Bread) in Brazil. There are tons of great places to get Levantine food and spices in Rio, but here are some of our favorites: Al-Kuwait for Kibbe and Esfiha, Quiosque Arab for ambiance and Casas Pedro for spices and Pão Sirio.

Casas Pedro in Rio

Casas Pedro in Rio

Leave a comment

Filed under World Eats

São Paulo: Esfihas at Jaber

Jaber
Rua Domingos Morais, 86 – Vila Mariana
Sao Paulo, 04010-000, Brazil

São Paulo, with its cosmopolitan populace, is home to a large middle-Eastern population – especially Lebanese residents. This of course means delicious Lebanese food, one of our favorite varieties. Some Lebanese-inherited dishes have become popular all across Brazil – including kibbe – ground beef and cracked wheat fritters and the esfiha – an open faced pastry with either sweet or savory toppings. There are Middle Eastern restaurants on almost every corner of Sampa, so were definitely spoiled for choice (much as we were for Pizzas, as we will write about shortly). Right around the corner from our friends’ place was a Lebanese takeout restaurant that racked up accolades from Veja magazine and the like for awesome Lebanese treats. The menu at Jaber had both individual dishes, hot small snacks (salgados), and huge-family-style platters, they seemed to be doing very rapid turn over on large take-out plates for hungry families.

kibbe and esfiha

Of course we were pleased to see both kibbe and esfiha on offer at Jaber, both of which are pictured above. We sampled 3 types of esfihas, Za’atar, Cheese and Endive. The Za’atar esfiha really impressed us – the topping on the pastry crust was nothing but a solid layer of spice – Za’tar is a spice mix of thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame and salt – and the flavor of the esfiha was nothing short of explosive. Also on the menu were varieties of Esfiha that are “closed”, kind of a Brazilian/Lebanese take on Stromboli, with the pastry folded over the filling. Sao Paulo made us esfiha addicts! One thing about Brazil – they definitely have a lock on the pocket-sized savory pastry – who knew such myriad wonders even existed?

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews, World Eats