Sao Paulo in a Day

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Sao Paulo being the city with the largest Japanese population outside Japan, you can hardly visit and not head to Liberdade, Sao Paulo’s Japantown. Lucky for me, my one full day in town coincided with possibly the best day to visit this particular neighborhood. On Sundays, there is a street market next to the Liberdade metro stop. Japanese food, art, crafts and, ok yes, a fair smattering of random crap. I didn’t find the random crap all that photogenic, but the flowers were another story. I love orchids.
Even better than flowers, however, is food. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures of every stall because it was absolutely packed, and I think I would have just gotten crushed if I’d insisted on stopping long enough to take pictures. Plus I probably would have ended up with multiple pictures featuring the tops of strangers’ heads.
There were all sorts of Japanese dishes that I’d never seen including some yummy-looking omelette/latke thing (weird description I know, but think about it, you can totally picture what an omlette/latke hybrid looks like) that almost became my lunch. In the end, however, I was drawn in by the spectacle of takoyaki.
These were appetizingly described as “little creamy balls,” but the process of making them allowed me to look past that. There was an assembly line going on, with one guy pouring the creamy mixture into the special pan to start. Each of the ball-cookers had a metal stick used to turn the balls in rapid succession, and as they cooked they were passed down the line from one cook to the next. I could have had them with polvo or camarao. Since I knew that camarao meant shrimp, which I like, and only knew that polvo in Spanish means dust, I went for shrimp. Once I figured out that in Portuguese, polvo is octopus, I was even happier with my choice.

My takoyaki came with sauce, dried fish shavings and seaweed sprinkles. I opted out of mayo and chose to accompany my little creamy balls with a fresh mango juice. A lovely Brazilian-Japanese fusion street food lunch, which I enjoyed on the steps of a small church.
The verdict? I’m not sure there’s too much takoyaki in my future. They weren’t bad by any means, but I preferred the crispy outside texture to the creamy inside texture, and the flavor of the fish shavings was a bit strong for me. For dessert, I decided to continue my culinary exploration by trying red bean paste. I think what I had may be called a dorayaki, but all I’m sure of is that it was essentially a pancake with red bean paste in the middle. Again, I neither loved nor hated this, but I enjoyed having tried it.
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