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Shapes are the key to Brazilian salgados

Tom Hanchett, 2010
brazilbakeryKnow your shapes. We all learned that in kindergarten. But I had no idea how it would come in handy when choosing Brazilian snacks.

Tropical Bakery & Café occupies a plain little space in a strip shopping center just off Highway 51 in suburban Matthews. A glistening glass case of sweet pastries catches your eye first. But look behind the counter and you’ll see salgados – dough stuffed with meat or cheese.

Shapes are the key to flavors, a Brazilian tradition, explains baker-owner Maria Costa who was born in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Triangle shapes contain ground beef with bits of olive and onion. “They are calledsfirra,” says Maria.

Round flat discs have chicken. Ask for an empada.

Ball-shaped treats are called quibe, a mixture of ground meat and bulgar wheat. Say it out loud and it sounds like kibbeh, which appears on menus at Middle Eastern restaurants. “Brazil is a county of immigrants, like the U.S.,” Maria explains, “including many Arabs.”

Another shape looks a bit like a cornmeal-breaded chicken thigh. It’s calledcochinha — that’s ‘chicken thigh’ in Portuguese, the language of Brazil.  Indeed there’s chicken inside, plus potatoes.

And finally there’s a puffy rectangluar shape called a pastel. Maria fills these with your choice of beef or mozzarella cheese, then deep-fries them to order. There’s a secret ingredient, a few drops of pinga liquor. “It goes away in the frying,” says Maria, but “makes the dough crispy-crunchy.”

Tropical Bakery & Café
11100-E Monroe Road
Matthews, NC   28105
(704) 846 – 7654

Monday – Saturday:  7am – 8pm
Sunday:  8am – 2pm

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