The cuisine of Brazil, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region.
This diversity reflects the country's mix of native Amerindians,
Portuguese, Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Poles, Syrians,
Lebanese and Japanese among others which has created a national
cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.
From west to east it stretches nearly 2,700 miles from the Andean
foothills eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. The largest cities are Sao
Paulo (16 million people), Rio de Janeiro (11 million), Belo
Horizante (3.8 million), Salvador (2.3 million), Recife (1.8
million), and Porto Alegre (3.1 million).
Brazil is politically subdivided into 26 states and territories plus
the federal district of Brasilia. About 1 million native Indians
lived in Brazil when the first Portuguese explorers arrived early in
the 16th century. Beginning in 1538, almost 5 million Africans
arrived before the abolition of slavery in 1888. Portuguese
immigrants were followed by Italians, Germans, Syrians, and Lebanese.
Asians arrived during the 1930's
In Brazil , eating is, like so many other things, another pretext for
pleasure-taking. There is no such thing as Brazilian haute cuisine
per se, but the food tastes damned good almost anywhere you go. Even
more remarkable is the cultural know-how about what, where, when and
how to eat.
This arte de comer bem (art of eating well) has nothing to do with
either fussiness, or pseudo-scientific taboos. Brazilians simply
understand that the body feels better when it's kept hydrated with
fruit and water while at the beach, or that a fattening little snack
and a few sips of strong coffee or cold beer make the ride home from
work infinitely more pleasant.
The most basic `Brazilian' meal can include Portuguese olive oil,
native manioc, Japanese sushi, African okra, Italian pasta, German
sausage and Lebanese tabbouleh. Still, the cuisine can be reduced to
three delightful principles: generosity, freshness and simplicity.
The nearest Brazil gets to a national dish is feijoada, a black bean
stew which is traditionally served on Saturdays. Visitors must also
try out the churrasco (barbecue) restaurants and we highly recommend
a visit to a rodizio, where they will keep up the servings of a
variety of cuts of meats, unless and until you ask them to stop.
Although Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer, the national
drink is cachaça, a sugar cane alcohol. You will find this in
the famously potent caipirinhas and mixed with fruit juices in
batidas. Guaraná is the most popular soft drink and the
draught beer (chopp) is a tasty lager. Brazilian wines are beginning
to be noticed internationally.
Servings are generous and the meal will include arroz e feijdo (rice
and beans), the principle staples of the Brazilian diet. Each is
cooked with garlic and onions. To the rice add tomatoes, and to the
beans add bay leaves and perhaps some bacon. On top of the beans,
sprinkle farofa - manioc flour sauteed in butter, perhaps with bits
of egg or bacon. Grilled meats, known as churrasco or grelhadas, are
the meal's crowning glory: chicken, beef or pork is dredged in salt,
set on a spit and grilled slowly over an open fire. A green salad or
sauteed or steamed vegetables (beets, carrots, green beans, yams or
kale) round out the main course. Then follows sobremesa (dessert),
which could include either fresh or preserved fruit, a pudding
enlivened with coconut or passion fruit, or the flanlike quindim. The
meal ends with a strong, sweet shot of Brazilian coffee.
Brazilian restaurants outside of Brazil tend to serve, more
specifically Bahian cuisine, perhaps because it's the most obviously
exotic. It developed in the kitchens of the region's sugar
plantations, and its African origins reveal themselves in the three
main ingredients: coconut milk; the spicy malagueta pepper; and dende
oil, a reddish-orange extraction of west African palm. The delicious
seafood stew known as moqueca includes all three and is a classic
Bahian speciality. On the streets of Bahia , you can't escape the
smell of acaraje - fritters made with brown beans and shrimp fried in
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours and 30 minutes (approximately)
Suggested beverages: lime "batida" or beer
800 grams of black beans
250 grams of dried beef ("carne seca")
250 grams of salted pork ribs
1 pork trotter
1 pork tail (or ear)
100 grams of smoked loin of pork
80 grams of smoked bacon
2 large pork sausages ("paio")
1 Portuguese sausage
3 cloves of garlic
1 soup spoon of olive oil
2 bay leaves
The night before, clean the port trotter and tail and soak them in
cold water together with the already cleaned pork ribs. In a separate
bowl, soak the dried beef cut into pieces. Change the water in each
bowl at least four times.
Put the salted meats on the stove in a pan with plenty of water. Boil
for 10 minutes, drain off the water, pour in clean water and cook.
Use the same procedure for the dried beef, putting it to cook in a
separate pan. When the meats are tender, but not shredded, drain off
the water and cut the pork ribs into pieces. Set aside.
Cut the "paio" and Portuguese sausage into thick slices,
the smoked bacon into small cubes, and the smoked pork into
Place the bans in a large pan with a thick bottom. Add water, the bay
leaves, and the orange cut in half, with the inner peel but without
the outer peel. After cooking for 45 minutes, add the salted and
smoked meats, the dried beef, sausage and "paio." Leave to
cook for 20 more minutes.
Remove two soup ladles of beans from the pan. Chop the onion and
garlic finely. Sauté them, without letting the brown, in a
skillet in the olive oil. Add the bean paste to the skillet and cook
for two minutes. Return the entire mixture to the large pan, mix and
taste for salt. Adjust the temperature as necessary and leave
everything to cook 20 minutes more or until well cooked. Serve with
white rice, sautéed kale, manioc meal. Accompanied by fresh
The meats can vary according to individual taste. It is very
important that the oily build-up on the surface be skimmed off
periodically while cooking.