The pastel (shown here in two photos taken at a feira or street market in São Paulo) is one of Brazil's favorite fast food or appetizer. It can be very large and, basically, a meal in itself, or on the small side, in which case they're usually served in portions of three to six...perfect with a caipirinha or a very cold beer! Enjoying a pastel while you do your weekly shopping for fruits and vegetables has become quite a tradition in Brazilian large cities. Our favorite spot to try one is the Saturday feira at Rua General Glicério in the Laranjeiras section of Rio. Why is that? Well, you'll not only savor one of the best pastéis in the city, but it'll be to the sounds of one of the best choro groups there, Chorinho na Feira!
So you don't have to go through the trouble of making the dough, we suggest that you buy the packaged rounds for fried wontons at Chinese markets or the refrigerated section of your supermarket. As far as fillings, your imagination is the limit. Brazilians are very creative with theirs: mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil leaves; Parma ham with gorgonzola cheese; jerkedt beef with pumpkin; shrimp; pork loin with pineapple, and so on ad infinitum!
To prepare your pastéis, basically place a tablespoon or teaspoon of filling in the center of the wonton round (depending on how big they are), fold the round over once, so it closes into a half-moon shape, and apply pressure all around the edge with a fork to seal it. Follow the instructions for deep-frying. You want your pastéis to look like the ones above, crispy golden, not overcooked!