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Monday, October 22, 2012

Try the pastel, Brazil's answer to the empanada

Posters recently appeared along Dundas Street West, the centre of Toronto's Portuguese-speaking community, advertising the "Festival do Pastel." Starting a few weeks ago, the local restaurant Brazilian Star (1242 Dundas St. W. just east of Dovercourt) began serving pastels, a street food akin to an empanada, every Thursday.

The restaurant previously had only a Portuguese version of the pastel, and the predominately Brazilian clientele often asked for their own country's version of the fried snack. Brazilian Star hired someone to make the pastels on Thursdays, and according to server Bruna Lima (below left) it's one of the only places in town that sells them. The flat, doughy snacks are available with different fillings: meat, cheese, pizza, chicken, and guava/cheese. 
The carne pastel ($3.98) is filled with tasty spiced beef, while the cheese one is stuffed with an oozing, mild white cheese. The shell is a dimpled, oily dough reminiscent of Chinese egg roll pastry or a deep fried wonton. Bruna says the pastel may have an Asian origin, as they are frequently sold by Chinese vendors in Brazilian markets. It's one of the many examples of cultural fusion on this intensely diverse South American country. 
The guava and cheese pastel is a surprise: sweet rather than savoury, the mild cheese fuses with the rich, carmel flavour of the guava. Be sure to wash it down Brazil's national cocktail, the caipirinha, the perfect blend of lime, ice and sugar cane rum. 

Festival do Pastel takes place Thursdays at Brazilian Star, 1242 Dundas St. W.; tel: 416-588-2967.

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