Rio Carnival 2012: Best street foods for partying all day (and night)

It’s impossible to survive consecutive days of Carnival blocos, parties, and parades without adding hits of nutrition to your daily beer diet. For this, Rio de Janeiro’s street food vendors have you covered.

Street food can be found everywhere in Rio de Janeiro, particularly during big events like Carnival and New Year’s. Mobile carts and stands offer cheap, tasty Brazilian eats — vital for travelers struggling to stay on a budget in a city where a side order of restaurant french fries can cost upwards of 25 reais (US$14). Though much of the fare isn’t healthy by a long shot, there are specialties that will fill you up without throwing you into a food coma that will render you incapable anything beyond a nap on Ipanema Beach. Here’s what’s kept me going all week.

Brazil’s version of shish kabob, espetinhos are tasty morsels of barbequed meat on a stick. The most common are sausage and chicken, and many Brazilians add ketchup or hot sauce and throw some farinha de mandioca, a type of crunchy flour, on top.

Milho verde
After a few days at Carnival, you may start experiencing an intense craving for salad, greens, or any food that isn’t deep fried and over salted. Get your vegetable fix with boiled corn-on-the-cob, served with butter.

Quiejo coalho
For a shot of dairy, try quiejo coalho, a type of salty Brazilian cheese that is served grilled on a stick. Beware addiction.

If you’ve never tried fried tapioca, you’re in for a treat. Vendors cook the tapioca powder in a pan until it turns a pancake-like consistency, then they add a sweet or savory filling, like chocolate or dried meat. The Brazilian guys ahead of me recommended a traditional combination of coconut, sweet cheese, and condensed milk. Delicious.

Okay, so it’s not actually a food. And check out all that sugar! But ask your vendor to cut back on the white stuff and add extra lime, and you have a refreshing beverage that will keep you dancing in the streets late into the night. And that’s what you’re looking for, right?

Check out Gadling’s full range of Rio Carnival 2012 coverage here.