There’s a lot to be excited about when we talk about the features of Brazilian cooking! Combining the best of many world’s: namely Europe, Latin America and Africa and making good use of native Brazilian ingredients, we can see why this adventurous cuisine is exploding in popularity.
Here’s a quick look at some what makes Brazilian culinary so special!
First, a willingness to focus on the “primitive”. Brazilian cooking makes grand use of stews and soups, staples like black beans and rice and cuts of meat often discarded in other culinary traditions. There’s something liberating about being able to make a fantastic meal with everything smoked or sometimes even thrown in one pot and cooked to perfection. Even better when you’re using exotic pieces of meat! A great example of this is Feijoda Complete, Brazil’s most beloved dish. Consisting of pork (including pig ears and feet), jerk beef, smoked sausage and black beans, rice and hot chilies all dusted with powdered cassava root (also known as manioc meal). Try a plate Feijoda Complete and see how advanced “primitive” can taste, Brazilian style.
Next, the Brazilian mastery of sea food is stunning. With communities so often near the sea, or near rivers (Amazon anyone?) Brazilian have mastered the art of cooking sea food, spinning it with their own local ingredients. Take for example a great shrimp and fish meal to die for, Vatapa de Camarao & Peixe. This consists of both fresh and dry shrimp and white fish cooked palm oil and served in a coconut cream sauce. How’s that sound? Or our own favorite Brazilian dish Moqueca. Moqueca is a fish stew with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions and, of course, more coconut milk!
As Brazilian chefs continue to make a name for themselves here in America, expect to become more exposed to the features of Brazilian cooking that the insiders have learned to know and love. It’s a culinary adventure not to be missed
- Rice and beans are an extremely popular dish, considered basic at table; a tradition Brazil shares with several Caribbean nations. Brazilian rice and beans usually are cooked utilizing either lard or the nowadays more common edible vegetable fats and oils, in a variation of the Mediterranean fried called locally refogado which usually includes garlic or a similar substitute such as onion, welsh onions, parsley, coriander or other herbs are used instead.
- In variation to rice and beans, Brazilians usually eat pasta (including yakisoba, lamen, and bifum), pasta salad, various dishes using either potato or manioc, and polenta as substitutions for rice, as well as salads, dumplings or soups of green peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, broad beans, butter beans, soybeans, lentils, moyashi (which came to Brazil due to the Japanese tradition of eating its sprouts), azuki, and other legumes in substitution for the common beans cultivated in South America since Pre-Columbian times. It is more common to eat substitutions for daily rice and beans in festivities such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve (the tradition is lentils), as follow-up of churrasco (mainly potato/carrot salads, called maionese, due to the widespread use of both industrial and home-made mayonnaise, which can include egg whites, raw onion, green peas, sweetcorn or even chayote squashes, and pronounced almost exactly as in English and French) and in other special occasions.
- Either way the basis of Brazilian daily cuisine is the starch (most often a cereal), legume, protein and vegetable combination. There is also a differentiation between vegetables of the verduras group, or greens, and the legumes group (no relation to the botanic concept), or non-green vegetables. There are Brazilians which eat both daily or the most often they can, only vegetables of one group, or none at all, which again depends on personal tastes. The comparison between the healthiness of Brazilian and Western foods and tastes is, ironically, debatable.
- Salgadinhos are small savoury snacks (literally salty snacks). Similar to Spanish tapas, these are mostly sold in corner shops and a staple at working class and lower middle-class familiar celebrations. There are many types of pastries:
- Pão de queijo (cheese bun, literally “cheese bread”), a typical Brazilian snack, is a small, soft roll made of manioc flour, eggs, milk, and minas cheese. It can be bought ready-made at a corner store or frozen and ready to bake in a supermarket and is gluten-free.
- Coxinha is a chicken croquette shaped like a chicken thigh.
- Kibe/Quibe: extremely popular, it corresponds to the Lebanese dish kibbeh and was brought to mainstream Brazilian culture by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants. It can be served baked, fried, or raw.
- Esfiha: another Middle Eastern dish, despite being a more recent addition to Brazilian cuisine they are nowadays easily found everywhere, specially in Northeastern, Southern and Southeastern regions. They are pies/cakes with fillings like beef, mutton, cheese curd, or seasoned vegetables.
- Pastéis are pastries with a wide variety of fillings. Similar to Spanish fried empanadillas, but of Japanese origin (and brought to Brazil by the Japanese diaspora). Different shapes are used to tell apart the different flavours, the two most common shapes being half-moon (cheese) and square (meat). Size, flavour, and shape may vary greatly.
- Empadas are snacks that resemble pot pies in a small scale. Filled with a mix of palm hearts, peas, flour and chicken or shrimp.
- Cuscuz branco is a dessert consisting of milled tapioca cooked with coconut milk and sugar and is the couscous equivalent of rice pudding.
- Açaí, cupuaçu, starfruit, and many other tropical fruits are shipped from the Amazon Rainforest and consumed in smoothies or as fresh fruit. Other aspects of Amazonian cuisine are also gaining a following.
- Cheese: the dairy-producing state of Minas Gerais is known for such cheeses as Queijo Minas, a soft, mild-flavored fresh white cheese usually sold packaged in water; requeijão, a mildly salty, silky-textured, spreadable cheese sold in glass jars and eaten on bread, and Catupiry, a soft processed cheese sold in a distinctive round wooden box.
- Pinhão is the pine nut of the Araucaria angustifolia, a common tree in the highlands of southern Brazil. The nuts are boiled and eaten as a snack in the winter months. It is typically eaten during the festas juninas.
- Risoto (risotto) is a rice dish cooked with chicken, shrimp, and seafood in general or other protein staples sometimes served with vegetables, another very popular dish in Southern Brazil.
- Mortadella sandwich
- Sugarcane juice, mixed with fruit juices such as pineapple or lemon.
- Angu is a popular side dish (or a substitution for the rice fulfilling the “starch element” of use common in Southern and Southeastern Brazil). It is similar to the Italian polenta.
- Arroz com pequi is a traditional dish from the Brazilian Cerrado, and the symbol of Center-Western Brazil‘s cuisine. It is basically made with rice seasoned on pequi, also known as a souari nut, and often chicken.