We first heard about the wonderful acai juice (ah-sa-EE) on day 1 in Rio. Our host at the Casa Cool Beans mentioned how addicted he and his partner were to the substance, which is usually served as a frozen smoothie.
Being a smoothie person, I knew I had to try it. You can find it almost everywhere around the city at the sucos shops (sucos meaning juices).
The first chance we got to try it was in Ipanema. We walked into a small store and attempted to order. And by we, I mean that I had Nellu attempt to order (because he’s just so much better at communicating than I am.) But instead of asking for ah-sa-EE sucos, Nellu asked for ah-koch sucos. The funny thing is that the woman at the counter didn’t flinch in the way that someone usually does when they don’t understand what you just said. She just calmly repeated it back. I laughed and said, “Ah-sa-EE.” I’m wondering now what we would have gotten if I didn’t clarify. We had no clue what it should look like so I’m sure we would have eaten it anyway.
The woman asked us if we wanted to sit down while she made it. That’s because for what seemed like an eternity (about 15 minutes) she went into the backroom to beat our frozen acai pulp into submission. Just barely seeing her through the door, stabbing what looked like a piece of ice with a giant butchers knife, and hearing the blender going off and on, we wondered if we had gone terrible wrong.
But to our surprise, we didn’t. She served up the smoothest acai we have had to date – this wonderful dark purple slush that tastes like a fruit smoothie with hints of chocolate pudding. Totally worth the wait.
Now we’re professional acai orders. We get it as often as we can for lunch. We justify that even though it’s delicious, it’s fruit so it must be good for us in many respects (and cheap and filling – even for Nellu).
Here’s a great article from the New York Times Frugal Traveler talking about the transition of acai from local Brazilian staple to global super fruit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/dining/24acai.html?scp=3&sq=acai&st=nyt
And interestingly, just this week the FTC is cracking down on fake news sites posing as legitimate media organizations in order to market acai berry products for weight loss.
I certainly can’t vouch for any claims that acai is a miracle diet food. I think deep down, I know that it’s too tasty to be that good for me. Our host here tells me the sucos shops do add sugar to the pulp and he often finds Brazilian women scolding him saying, “Do you know how many calories that has.”
But even as I write this and Nellu uploads the pictures to Flickr, he tells me, “Just looking at these pictures makes me crave an acai.”