At the Ver-o-Peso ("check the weight") market, a sprawling waterfront complex of mismatched structures—from the gothic, turreted Mercado de Peixe (fish market) to the canopied stalls that spill out into the streets—oceangoing fishing boats and canoes from up the Amazon arrive throughout the day to unload their bounty. There's a massive section devoted entirely to dried shrimp, dozens of species, some as big as a fist, others practically microscopic. And the fresh fish! River fish, ocean fish, creatures from another planet. One species in particular, called tamuata, blew my mind: layers of silvery scales, overlapping like the armor of an armadillo, and vivid mango-colored flesh. And the fruits. And the vegetables. Dozens of varieties of chiles, more exquisitely shaped and colorful than any I'd come across before, pink, yellow, and red jewels. I could have wandered there all day, but before long I was ravenous again. At another street stall, I ordered a bowl of tacaca, a soup that combines tucupi, a broth made of fermented cassava juice, with dried-shrimp stock. Jambu, a watercress-like green, floated atop the soup like lilypads. Native to this part of Brazil, the vegetable is prized for its palate-numbing properties—it's the Sichuan peppercorn of the Amazon. I dressed my soup with a generous shot of chile vinegar and brought a spoonful to my lips, savoring the silky texture, the fiery, floral chiles, the saline flavor of the dried shrimp. The tingling sensation from the jambu overtook my tongue, my gums, my whole mouth. I felt as though I was slurping down the essence of this hot and enigmatic city. I couldn't wait for seconds.