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Ancestral and afrofuturistic food: a gastronomic tour of Little Africa in Rio

Afrotourism : Afro-centric destinations and businesses. The aspect of cultural tourism which has been gaining other flavors with fans in gastronomy, includes anti-racist experiences and destinations, one of Embratur's priorities, as announced by Marcelo Freixo. “It is a segment compatible with what the 21st century demands of us, to be anti-racist, valuing and respecting the culture of black people, a big business, which generates jobs and income, and empowers black entrepreneurs.”

In Rio, this means the region known as Little Africa a term coined by samba singer Heitor dos Prazeres (1898-1966) to refer to the area covered by the neighborhoods Saúde, Gamboa and Santo Cristo at Rio port area occupied by a majority black population.

Centuries after receiving the largest number of kidnapped and enslaved people, the region entered the Unesco map (which registered Valongo Wharf as a World Heritage Site) and the cool English magazine Time Out, which highlighted charming bars and fascinating places of the diaspora in that zip code. African and embryo of samba. All this at the foot of the Providência favela, the oldest in the city.

Vibrant, the Little Africa received more visits than Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain in 2023 according to a survey by the Tourism Secretariat of the City of Rio. Along with this, it has become increasingly “gourmetized” after the works at Porto Maravilha and the creation of a African Heritage Circuit . Afrofuturist destination in Rio, there are 15 points that make up the region, at least six of which focus on food, fun and ancestry.

Just one tour is enough to feel the splendor of Little Africa and the irrepressible exuberance of the locals who live there. Generous smiles, a resilient and, above all, ancestral feast. Axe!

Below is an excerpt from this experience that is worth including on your itinerary through the “wonderful city”.

  • Valongo Wharf, UNESCO World Heritage Site

The main landing and trading point for enslaved Africans in the Americas operated between 1811 and 1831, the year in which transatlantic trafficking was prohibited. During this period, around one million people disembarked in Valongo to be sold and transported to different parts of the country. The site was revealed in 2011, during archaeological excavations carried out to implement the “Porto Maravilha” project. In 2017, UNESCO included Valongo on the World Cultural Heritage list, recognizing it as “the most important physical evidence associated with the historical arrival of enslaved Africans on the American continent”.

There you will find the Gracious, bar and restaurant Founded by Spaniards in 1960, with the family still in charge today. The flagship are the dumplings (corn and shrimp), but also stew, feijoada, risole and a dish that is typical of Rio: filet à Oswaldo Aranha (tall mignon covered in fried garlic, served with rice and potatoes ; R$ 168, for 2 or 3). Original beer can reach R$9.90, according to the promotion on display.


Graceful: Rua Sacadura Cabral 97 – Health

  • Pedra do Sal, historical monument and birthplace of samba

The oldest continuously inhabited black neighborhood in Rio, officially recognized as a quilombo in 2005, is a strong source of Afro-Brazilian culture. Pedra do Sal is recognized as the birthplace of samba and Carnival. The place received its name due to the huge stone found there, used to dry and sell salt at a time when the waters of the bay still reached its shores.

Acarajé of Casa Omolokum

Pedra do Sal, in the 19th and 20th centuries, was a destination for quituteiras, the “Bahian aunts”, in addition to the first Candomblé terreiros in the city, as well as the emergence of Rio samba and the first ranchos and carnival bands. The most acclaimed delicacies outside of Bahia come from the trays of these women — and also some men — and one of the names responsible is the Omolokum House , cozy atmosphere of Afro cuisine. This means acarajé, farofa, vatapá and lots and lots of dendê, along with cinnamon, orange and cachaça toast.

“Everything in honor of orixás”, says chef Leila Leão, author of the terreiro food served on a complete menu (R$ 80) and also the famous acarajé (R$ ​​25), the black-eyed pea cake seasoned with onion and salt, fried in palm oil and then stuffed with vatapá (coconut milk, cashew nuts, peanuts and shrimp), vinaigrette and dried shrimp. The pepper is up to you.

There is also the Da Pedra , with Brazilian menus and foods to fuel the long samba circles. The Pequena África is a hit, a bacon-wrapped jiló skewer with sausage, okra and chicken, served with soft polenta and pepperoni farofa.

Omolokum House: Rua Tia Ciata 51 – Health
Da Pedra : Rua Argemiro Bulcão 33 – Health

  • Morro da Conceição, Italian food at one end and northeastern food at the other

Saturday begins with a suggestion of refreshing entry into the brand new Tero Coffee : ceviche made from seafood and land. Reason that injects endorphins to extend the itinerary on a tour of Morro da Conceição, where it is possible to appreciate the buildings from the colonial period, colors and an incredible view of the center of Rio.

Breakfast, lunch and late afternoon with drinks. This spot is a success, where it even has a menu of artisanal vermouths, as well as a tango trio at night. Idea of ​​mixologist Nicola Bara (from Micro Bar, in Leblon) together with chef Tobia Messa (from Flor do Céu, in Chácara do Céu), both Italians, for the charming house with access via Praça Mauá, with a bucolic atmosphere, lean menu , with a focus on fresh pasta.

The vegetarian lasagna with gorgonzola cheese, radicchio and zucchini (R$35) and the tagliatelle with pumpkin and sausage in beer (R$33) are a hit.

At another access to the hill (via Pedra do Sal), there is the Delicatessen of Light, affectionate name for the kitchen of Dona Luziete, who was a seamstress, but a full-fledged greengrocer, and began to dedicate herself entirely to the cuisine of her region, the Northeast. Dona Luziete's two baião has no equal, it is a reference in Little Africa.

Tero Coffee: Ladeira Felipe Neri 11 – Store A – Saúde
Treats of Light: Rua do Jogo da Bola 117 – Health

  • Largo de São Francisco da Prainha, Little Africa’s social network

February 2nd

Popularly known as Largo da Prainha, it is located on Rua Sacadura Cabral, at the foot of Morro da Conceição. Before the construction of the port of Rio de Janeiro, there was a small beach there, which extended to what is now Praça Mauá. In the center, the statue of Mercedes Baptista, the first black ballerina of the permanent ballet corps of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro. Mercedes founded the Folkloric Ballet that bore her name, a worldwide disseminator of terreiros performances and a paradigm of the anti-racist struggle in the field of culture. The square and its surroundings have several bars and restaurants and intense day and night life. One of them, the Breath of Prainha, attracts crowds with a variety of grilled meat options (R$ 34.90, order the spoon termite with broccoli rice, country sauce, farofa and Portuguese potatoes), buckets of beer, samba circles and, if you're lucky enough to get one, a place, the neighboring Casa Porto next door, with bean broth, milkshakes and PF served in a small pan (R$ 35, with house drink and dessert). Eating while kneeling, before falling into samba with the group Women of Little Africa on Saturdays at 6pm. Colado has the Bahian On the Second of February with dishes from R$30 to R$35: sun-dried meat, cassava in butter and couscous.

Heading towards Praça Mauá, there is still the traditional Angu do Gomes and the G&G Gourmet . The first needs no introduction, where the warm mixture of corn porridge, beef giblets and/or seafood (R$45) gained fame and won over celebrities such as Tom Jobim, Beth Carvalho and even former president Juscelino Kubitscheck. Before jumping in, be sure to order the cheese pastry with angu pasta. In the second, the most famous bobó from Little Africa (from R$30), a recipe from chef Georgia, which evolved into a dumpling during Comida di Buteco and turned out beautifully. Writer Conceição Evaristo is a fan!

Bobó cupcake

The night boils in Sacadura Cabral , starting at the samba circles of Pedra do Sal and – for the LGBTI+ public – ending at the electronic dance floor The Home (formerly The Week), the only house/tribal venue in Rio (mix of African and electronic music, the sound “ haircut”). I boil with axé.

Breath of Prainha: Largo São Francisco da Prainha 15 – Health
G&G Gourmet: Rua Sacadura Cabral 55 – Health

  • Muhcab – Museum of Afro-Brazilian History and Culture, never to be forgotten

Recently renovated and located in the historic building of the former Colégio José Bonifácio, the Museum of History and Afro-Brazilian Culture has a collection of around 2,500 items, including paintings, sculptures and photographs, as well as works by contemporary visual artists, that dialogue with the territory of Little Africa. It is part of the network of museums of the Municipal Department of Culture and serves as a stage for musical afternoons filled with delicacies in the board of baianas do acarajé . The City Hall – via the Municipal Department of Culture – is mapping all the professionals known as Baianas and Baianos de Acarajé. One of them is Rosa Perdigão, which sells not only the famous black-eyed bean cake (R$20), but also abará and cocadas.

Muhcab: Rua Pedro Ernesto 80 – Gamboa

  • Casa da Tia Ciata, a combination of memorial and spot for delicious gourd beans

A Home is a cultural center dedicated to preserving the memory of the samba matriarch Hilária Batista de Almeida, the Aunt Ciata . The institution is chaired by Tia Ciata's great-granddaughter, Gracy Mary Moreira, presents an exhibition with her trajectory and organizes the tourist circuit “Caminhos da Tia Ciata – Matriarca do Samba”, a guided tour of the main points in Little Africa linked to the birth of samba , in an ancestral immersion along a path surrounded by traditions, achievements, religiosity, delicacies and samba. It also offers jongo, capoeira with maculelê, drum and afro dance workshops, as well as delicious beans in the gourd and even a team of Bahian women (and Bahians) from acarajé.

Aunt Ciata's House: Rua Camerino 5 – Health

Source: CNN Brasil

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