I sampled several pão de queijo (its pronounced KAY-zhow, not KAY-ho) over my last few days, taking a bite of each right when I got them, as they are best eaten fresh and hot (they get stale really fast, I mean imagine congealed melted cheese….not pretty). And so, I present, the results:
The Restaurant Pão: A Figueira Rubaiyat
This is the plate of pão I got as part of the couvert at A Figueira Rubaiyat. They tasted very fresh, but the condensation from the hot bread and the plate made the bottom of the pão wet (not very pleasant). Actually, the small ones were ok. The big ones however were insanely good. I’m not sure what they were as they were completely hollow inside and only the shell had that chewy texture. Maybe not true pão de queijo but wow, those big ones are awesome.
The Institution Pão: Haddock Lobo
There were a lot of articles on the walls of this little storefront on Haddock Lobo between Oscar Freire and Lorena streets. I only looked it up after I got back to my room, but apparently, this is the best pão in all of Sao Paulo, some even say the country! So good thing I stumbled upon it. The place is has been an institution since it opened in 1968 and they put out a fresh batch of bread every 15 minutes, keeping them in a wicker basket covered with a cloth towel (how cute and old school). I bit into the warm pão to reveal a soft, chew interior. I really liked how they didn’t look uniform, but were kind of a big pão attached to a smaller pão. Unfortunately, someone dumped an entire container of salt into the batter and it tasted like I had just licked the top of a salt shaker, although the texture seemed there: a nice warm gummy inside that isn’t too soft nor too fluffy, and a nice, crispy outer shell.
I had them again the day I went to the MASP. This time they were hot out of the oven, so hot I couldn’t hold it in my hand and had to use a napkin to eat it. Same chewy, gummy interior, way less salty but I think overall, still a little salty for me. Darn that rogue salt shaker...
The Chain Pão: Casa do Pão de Queijo
See the bag? They put a picture of a grandmother (apparently the mother of the founder) on it, making you think that the pão you are eating is like your granny used to make. Well my granny never made something that tasted underbaked on the inside, and smooth cardboard on the outside. Better than the mini pão I had gotten there previously, but I don’t understand what’s with the industrially smooth outer crust, whose texture reminds me of those satellite wafer candies that I think I had once and spat out. Plus the inside, while fluffy, was too gummy, almost to the point of raw dough. Grandma never did this.
The McDonalds Pão:
Even at McDonalds they give you pão! It’s on the menu in their McCafe. Its actually not too bad, except that its not fresh out of the oven (they microwave it) and it has some kind of flour coating that comes off a little bit. It also didn’t look like the other pão I’ve had, you could see bits of cheese on the outside, but I liked how even though the shape was uniform, the outside was a little bumpy, making it texturally more interesting.
The Starbucks Pão:
The taste of this was spot on in my opinion. Not too salty, not to sweet. Unfortunately, its not poofy enough! What kind of pao isn't poofy?! Way too dense making me feel like I was eating a brick. Also I don't like how it had little raised dots on the bottom, reminds me that its commercially produced.
The Supermarket Pão:
This is apparently a chupa de queijo (or something like that). Whatever, its still queijo pao. And even if it doesn't taste that great (it tasted better heated up in the microwave), I'll still eat it. Warm or cold.
My favorite was the restaurant pao (the larger ones) that weren't even real pao. After that, probably Starbucks for the taste (blasphemy, I know) and Haddock Lobo for the texture. McDonald's had the weird coating I didn't like and the chain pao was meh. And the supermarket one wasn't even a real one but I'm a fattie and I eat everything in front of me. But thats not my conclusion. My conclusion is that I think you should eat as many pao as you can if you're ever in Brazil. Don't worry about your tummy, it'll be fine. And even if its not, its worth it. Damage done? +3lbs.