This Cooking Teacher Sells Chinese-Influence Brazilian Snacks from Home
“Sorry I missed your call, Sofia, I was cooking,” says Bruna Kao in a strong, South American accent.
Bruna, a cooking teacher back home in São Paulo, was working as a barista and kitchen hand at the Royal Children’s Hospital before launching Ba.Borín Food, an online business specialising in a fried Brazilian street snack called pastéis.
Unable to see Bruna through the phone, I’m surprised when she tells me her mother is Taiwanese, her father is Chinese, and the pastel (pastéis is plural) is an evolution of the gyoza.
Bruna’s Chinese grandfather moved from Taiwan to Brazil around 50 years ago so his sons didn’t have to fight for independence against China. A decade later, her mother’s family emigrated when the Brazilian government was offering free land to boost agriculture. Bruna grew up in the family’s Chinese restaurant.
“My mum made a lot of pastel and her dream was for me to make them too, but I never did, because I saw her entire life how hard it was to prepare the food,” says Bruna.
Feeling homesick at the start of COVID, Bruna finally made her mother’s pastéis. She posted the result to a community WhatsApp group where Brazilians share recipes. One member asked if she was selling them, and with both herself and partner out of a job, she said yes. They had 172 orders overnight.
Bruna’s pastel dough is available by the half-kilogram and customers can make filling requests. One bloke even gets Vegemite and cheese in his. When Bruna specialised in teaching Asian cuisine back in Brazil, she dyed dumpling skins as a point of difference.
She applies the same principle to her pastéis, colouring the dough pink (beetroot), green (spinach), yellow (turmeric) and purple (red cabbage). She also sells dadinho de tapioca, deep-fried tapioca cubes filled with haloumi or blue cheese. Bolinho de mandioca are also available, fried cassava and coriander balls filled with dried beef or cheese.
As Bruna says, “All the fried things are good, right?”