Long before the Europeans came to South America, Indigenous populations figured out how to cultivate an incredible array of plants. They developed elaborate irrigation systems and terraced the steep Andean mountain slopes to make them more suitable for growing food. They grew corn, lima beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, avocados, peanuts, and chocolate. They also raised llamas and guinea pigs. Each region developed its own traditional dishes.
When the Europeans arrived, they incorporated some of these Indigenous peoples’ dishes into their own cuisine. They took the new foods back to Europe, and they brought European livestock and foods to South America, such as pigs, chickens, citrus trees, wheat, almonds, cows, and goats.
The Europeans learned to make their favourite Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese dishes using local ingredients. Many traditional Indigenous cooking methods were adapted and modified, and the newly available foods from Europe were mixed in. Asian and African immigrants brought their culinary traditions as well. All of this blended to make this the diverse and exciting cuisine that exists today.
Some Indigenous foods were not incorporated into the European-style cuisine that dominates big cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago. But the Indigenous populations continue to cultivate and eat them. Recently, these foods have been gaining popularity. Chefs in trendy restaurants now showcase Andean products such as alpaca meat, grains like quinoa and kiwicha (also known as amaranth), and unusual tubers such as yucca and maca in sophisticated new ways.
As more South Americans venture north with their cooking traditions and ingredients in hand, North Americans are getting the chance to sample these new foods and flavours. Nuevo Latino cuisine, a fusion of traditional Latin flavours with global food trends, is one example of the global gastronomic exchange that’s happening today. The rest of the world has become interested in the cuisines of South America, and new combinations will emerge. But the time-honoured culinary traditions of Latin America remain intact. If you have not explored them already, new or old, don’t miss out. You will fall in love with South American food.
Now let’s find out how Marina and Marcio created Pop Skewer during lockdown to bring South American flavours to London.
Underneath the grey stretch of railway tracks in Wapping lies a surprise. Well, more than one, actually. Venture off the beaten path of Cable Street and you will find Brazil’s most popular street food on offer at Pop Skewer.
Succulent beef on sticks, halal chicken and sausage are freshly barbecued and served up on the side of the road, just like in South America.
The compact kiosk was opened by Brazilian couple Marina Simon, 46, and Marcio Yokota, 53, after they both lost their jobs during the first lockdown. They had never worked together, but decided to use their skills and take a chance on their new venture.
Marina said: “We were both doing something completely different before. I was working in property sales and then started temping because I knew I wanted to do something else but never thought of opening my own
“My husband was working in a coffee shop as manager but became ad lockdown we were bodh at home employed, so we said: “Why not work together?
“He’s a very good cook, so though we’d do something that uses his skills and gives people a taste of Brazil.”
They decided to serve the skewers with another popular dish from their home country rice and beans.
“In Brazil, they wouldn’t normally be served together, said Marina, “But we decided to combine them.”
“The skewers everywhere in Brazil. You grab them and eat them on the street really informally on the stick. They’re a really profitable business there and hopefully we will get the same success here”
They also serve up a Pop Sandwich and Pop Burger and daily specials like beef stew with cassava, beef stroganoff, beef parmigiana and, once a month slow-cooked beef ribs.
“Every Saturday we serve the feijoada, which is black bean and pork stew,” said Marina
It’s made with different types of pork meat served with rice, tomato salad, spring greens and the farofa, toasted cassava flour with bacon and something else. Forgive me, I forget as I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years.”
A vegetarian running a meat based business? How does that?
“To be honest, I don’t like the smell of the BBQ, but I respect everyone whether they are vegetarian or not,” she said.
Marina admits she mostly stays away from the kitchen and sticks to handling other parts of the business. The couple buy all their food fresh every few days and have items like the black beans delivered from a Brazilian streets of London. supplier.
“I don’t cook anything, I’m terrible with that she said. “Of course, I help put the meals together, But cooking? No.”
Thanks to her, Pop Skewer also serves up plenty of vegetarian options, including a halloumi, onion and courgette skewer, a halloumi burger with courgette and lettuce, tomato and homemade sauce and a vegetarian sandwich in ciabatta bread. Marina said: “Coking with a charcoal grill makes such a difference to the taste.
“We have never just aimed to target Brazilians and, so far everyone is enjoying eating it. which we find amazing.
It’s not the first time the Bromley residents have taken a leap into the unknown. Marina, who is of Italian heritage and grew up in Minas Gerais, left Brazil in her 20s on a one-way ticket to London.
She said: “My first job was working in silver service in hotels I was terrible. Then I started in retail sales and the management and then property sales”
Marcio, who is of Japanese heritage and grew up in Sae Paule, arrived in England 15 years ago. He left behind a clothes business and found work in restaurants and coffee shops
Having grown up 370 miles apart, it took them both travelling 3,900 miles across the Atlantic for their love story to begin on the
“We met through a mutual friend and have been together ever since,” said Marina.
Their relationship is being put to the test with the challenges presented by their joint venture.
They built the business in just eight weeks launching just after the first lockdown, and have faced struggles with supplies during the pandemic, getting word out to customers on a shoestring, and working together in very close quarters
Sometimes I want to strangle my husband said Marina “But we have separates with me in the front taking orders and the other two guys in the cooking area. Sometimes we do bump into each other and bicker.
“It’s been very challenging having our own business under these conditions for the past year but I’m really enjoying it.”
They have also taken on fellow Brazilian Lucas Montagnini and trained him up to work on the grill.
“It was very hard to find someone because of the pandemic, said Marina “He was a friend of a friend who was an engineer in Brazil, but he’d had enough and decided to leave and do something else. That’s what we all do when we come to England something completely different It’s great and challenging, leaving our comfort zone.”
The Pop Skewer site was empty. before they took it over and they rely on Instagram, Google and word of mouth to gain customers.
But business can be unpredictable, with the lunch crowed sometimes arriving at 11am and sometimes not until 1.30pm, which makes it hard to plan.
“It can be really unpredictable,” said Marina. “We are not just building up Pop Skewer but also the location. The residents kept us going during the pandemic, but now the office workers are coming back. Hopefully, when the weather gets warmer, there will be lots of BBQ for everyone.
“We really want Pop Skewer to grow and get more customers. The past year has been about working hard and not getting much money, so we really want presented by their joint venture. to move to the next level now and become known by everyone for Brazilian food.”
South American food presents travellers with unforgettable culinary experiences. These are some ten South American foods I have come across starting with Ceviche(Peru), Arepas(Venezuela), Empanadas(Argentina), Pisco Sour(Chile, Peru), Yerba Maté(Argentina), Pastel(Brazil), Dulce De Leche(Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil), Brigadeiros(Brazil), Platanos Fritos(All of South America), Chorizo(Argentina). Whether you favour sit down dinners or on the go treats from street vendors, it’s a safe bet that no matter which country you visit, you’ll find something to delight your taste buds.
So don’t miss out on trying some of the greatest delicious BBQ skewers and Brazilian food in the heart of east London and you know where to find them yes it’s none other than our Pop Skewers.
Go and try it for yourself to know the magic they have been cooking behind their kitchen doors just for you!