Being a veggie in Sampa
The vast majority of Brazilians are carnivores. Fact. Most of us love a barbecue and not a day would go by without us having some sort of meat on our plates. As a child, I remember being extremely disappointed when I couldn’t have any meat for lunch or dinner!
I am not a vegetarian, but my husband is. I do not cook meat at home at all and there are no meat-based products in my cupboard or fridge. I actually enjoy making interesting and more elaborate veggie meals and many of my favourite dishes are meat-free.
It is harder being a vegetarian in Brazil than in the UK though. Many restaurants here do not think of having at least one meatless option on their menu. In simpler places (like the botecos), even having the traditional rice and beans combo can be difficult – because bacon is often added to the beans. So you end up having an omelette with chips and salad.
If we are not eating at home, the easy solution, as we found, is to go to buffet restaurants (also known as “kilos” – you help yourself and pay for the weight of your plate) where there are many more options of salads, vegetables and so on. But beware: many places have the habit of adding meat (ham, chicken, pork) to salads!
Add to that the fact that many people here don’t really understand what being a vegetarian is all about. Often in restaurants, I will ask what the meat-free options are and waiting staff will suggest fish… And many people I know can’t really imagine living without their steak, chicken and sausages.
In London, all places have an option for vegetarians, sometimes even for vegans, but there is also more of a general understanding that people may choose not to have meat, be it for ethical, health or religious reasons.
While we still have some way to go in that respect, the debate in Brazil around reducing meat intake has gained more strength in the last few years. And the amount of veg-only restaurants in São Paulo has increased a lot in and now there are options for all tastes and pockets.
Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Mondays movement also has a São Paulo version, Segunda Sem Carne. The website for the initiative has a guide of restaurants across the whole city that are either vegetarian/vegan or offer several meatless items on their menu.
I haven’t visited all the places mentioned in the guide, but here are my recommendations for some of the best veggie places in Sampa:
For a romantic dinner
For a hearty Sunday lunch
For the best veggie Saturday feijoada