Gang Area Turned Culinary Hotspot

Staff Writer
Slums of Rio flaunt robust flavors as they become safe to visit
Jeff Belmonte

We’ve all heard that the next culinary power lies in Latin America, but did anyone think it might come from the slums? The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, of Rio de Janeiro, lower-class villages that were once famous for mass gang violence and drug smuggling, have taken a surprising turn in recent years and now known as hot culinary destinations in Brazil. Now restored, the Favelas of Rio are becoming popular attractions to foreigners for their low priced dishes and high-quality, authentic plates, while locals still stay away because of their strongly held belief that the Favelas remain unsafe.

Sergio Bloch, critically acclaimed director and now editor of the Portuguese written guide, The Gastronomic Guide to the Favelas of Rio, said to the Associated Press “Food is an excellent tool for breaking down prejudice. For people with lingering worries about danger or prejudice against these places that were impossible to visit for so long, food is a wonderful reason to actually visit a favela.”

With Brazilian favorites like prime cuts of meat in bean based stews and popular and foreign cuisine like sushi becoming available, tourists are now happily passing up on hikes to see Christ the Redeemer to enjoy a perfectly balanced bowl of rice and beans instead.

These territories, however, come with their own complications besides just violence. For what most of these Favela’s have in scenery and robust flavor, they lack in sanitation. “We went to places where the food was great, but where the smell from a nearby dumpster made it untenable,” said Bloch to the Associated Press. For his guide, Bloch reviewed 97 different restaurants and food providers in eight restored Favelas villages.

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