Fueled to win: How to eat well in Rio during the Olympic games

By Jack Southan on July 29th, 2016

Long has the name Rio de Janeiro been synonymous with paradise, and for many years it had remained as just that, an almost unattainable concept, a million miles from home. But nowadays, the city has opened up to become the prime travel and tourism hot spot on the South American continent.

This explosion of international popularity has no doubt contributed massively to the vote going Rio’s way to host the world-famous sporting mega-event that starts this week - The 2016 Olympic Games. The competitors and spectators from 206 different countries will descend on the picturesque city for 17 days of sporting excellence. This equates to around 500k extra people staying in Rio, all of whom need sun, sleep and, of course, food.



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Although the food in Brazil isn’t internationally famed, the country boasts some exceptional places to eat for those who know where to look. And sure, in 17 days you might find one or two places you really love. But here at ExtremeFoodies, we like to help out where we can so you can enjoy something tasty and typical without the hassle of looking all over town for it.

Because Rio de Janeiro has a legendary coastline, its white sandy shores lapped by the turquoise waves of the Atlantic Ocean, we thought it pertinent to make a list of our Top 10 Essential Seafood Dishes for your dining pleasure! We reached out to Tom Le Mesurier, our ExtremeFoodies expert in Rio de Janeiro. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are Tom’s recommendations:

Tacaca Soup - Tacaca do Norte 



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Tacacá is an amazing Amazonian soup, brought to Rio by Amazonians who moved to the city looking for work. The soup features huge, juicy shrimps in a base of jambú, a tangy leaf with strong anesthetic properties. This delicious combination is served in a traditional drinking gourd and will leave your lips numb and your tongue tingling!

Acarajé - Nega Teresa



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As the main landing point for ships coming from West Africa during the days of slavery, Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia remains the heartland of the country’s West African roots. No dish better epitomises this link to Africa than Acarajé, a version still sold on the streets of Lagos today. Black-eyed peas are soaked and skinned, then pounded into a purée and deep-fried in pungent unrefined palm oil. The falafel-like cake is split open and stuffed with vatapá (a rich, creamy mixture of peanuts, cashews, dried shrimp and fresh cilantro), caruru (okra, nuts and ginger), salsa, hot sauce and more dried shrimp. History never tasted so delicious!

Moqueca Baiana - Bira



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Moqueca is a rich seafood stew popular in several of Brazil’s states. Probably the most famous and most delicious is the Moqueca Baiana, which originates from the northeastern state of Bahia. Any combination of white fish, shrimp, lobster and other shellfish are cooked in a rich broth of coconut milk, bell peppers, dendê (palm oil) and cilantro.

Caldinho de Frutos do Mar - Bar Urca



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On the banks of Guanabara Bay, in one of the most beautifully scenic spots in the world, Bar Urca sits proud with views of Christ the Redeemer and the entrance to the historic St. John's Fort. The waterfront restaurant is classy and elegant and the food is made to perfection. Find a comfortable spot on the wall and enjoy the rich, thick, tangy seafood broth as you take in breathtaking views of Rio.

Sopa Leao Veloso - Sobrenatural



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This rich seafood soup-stew was invented by a Brazilian diplomat more than 50 years ago. Paulo Leão Veloso was sent to Paris in the 1950s and while there, he fell in love with French classic Bouillabaisse. When he returned to Brazil, he longed for the rich seafood stew from his days in France but found some of the ingredients simply weren't available. He substituted saffron with urucum (a bright red spice favored by indigenous tribes as a body paint) and used local Brazilian fish instead of the European varieties. This rich soup, heavy with seafood, is served with micro-thin rosemary toasts that have been liberally drizzled with olive oil.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau - Pavão Azul



Pavão Azul is a great little place to rub shoulders with Rio's locals, enjoy an ice-cold beer, some friendly conversation and something delicious to eat. It is famous for the amazing bolinhos de Bacalhau. Typically made from a combination of potatoes, bacalhau (codfish), eggs, parsley, and onion, these fried balls are crisp on the outside and soft and light on the inside. The parsley and cod work incredibly well together and make for a very memorable mouthful!

Sardinhas nas Brasa - Cantinho da Concertina



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Cantinho da Concertina in CADEG is a great place to find a selection of excellent food.An open, canteen-style eatery, the restaurant is always bustling (when it’s open) and has a great atmosphere. Our seafood pick has to be the Sardinhas nas Brasa, sardines grilled over charcoal until cooked to perfection. Smokey on the outside, and juicy under the skin, the dish is served with potatoes and onions, salad and a soft bread roll. Only available on Saturdays, however. 

Moqueca - Aconchego Carioca



Packed full of traditional Brazilian snacks and dishes, Aconchego Carioca is a favourite among locals and expats. Serving wholesome local fare, the restaurant keeps people coming back to sit, drink beer in the courtyard and eat hearty food. The fabulous Brazilian fish stew, moqueca, is served here and is possibly the best in town. It is flavorful, umami and filling.

Polvo Crocante - Puro



This stunning restaurant, in its slick garden and glass setting, is a pleasure to relax in. It is light and airy, with classy decor which feels like an expensive home without feeling self-conscious. Serving classically Brazilian food with a contemporary flair, Puro is creating some wonderful cuisine. The Polvo crocante is amazing - Grilled octopus with smoked pork belly and chilli vinaigrette. It is soft and succulent without being rubbery or tough. The pork belly is meaty and not too fatty and the vinaigrette adds a delicious sharpness to the dish. Highly recommended!

Atum fresco marinado e selado -  Zazá Bistro



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Boasting itself as the first contemporary restaurant in Rio de Janeiro, this laid-back and colourful eatery has gained a reputation for being the place to eat and relax. It is bold, lively and makes you feel instantly at ease as soon as you walk through the little entrance of the blue building. The food is great too - The seared tuna served with wasabi mash and beetroot tapioca caviar is insane and worthy of a visit in itself.

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Meet the author
Jack Southan

Jack Southan is a freelance journalist specialising in food and travel. He has worked his way around the world sampling the tastiest dishes and strongest local brews, but now lives in London and writes for magazines from the comfort of his armchair. ... More