Brazil is a unique country thanks to its landscapes, music, culture, and of course its delicious food. Today’s Brazilian cuisine is the result of the combination of traditional local food customs mixed with the dishes that the Europeans and African slaves brought in during the times of colonization.
Portugal and Africa are perhaps the biggest influences in the culinary offering currently known in Brazil. From the street food stands in São Paulo to the high-end restaurants in Rio de Janeiro’s Leblon area, you can still clearly taste these influences. And, one thing is for sure, it tastes absolutely amazing!
Feijoada is the national dish of Brazil. It is a meal composed of black beans and pork in the form of sausage, bacon, pork loin or ribs. It is often accompanied by manioc flour, rice, and orange slices.
Feijoada originated from the African slaves who collected the leftovers of the plantation owners, mixed them with black beans and prepared a stew. Despite its humble origin, this dish has become popular across all social classes in Brazil and is prepared on different occasions such as family reunions or weddings.
Feijoada is as representative of Brazil’s culinary culture as Samba is, in terms of music, or the Carnival, which is a worldwide recognized festivity.
Acarajé is another typical Brazilian dish of African origin. It is basically a bread roll with beans, onions, salt, shrimp, and pepper. Once all the ingredients are blended in a mixer, they are fried in vegetable oil and then stuffed with vetapá, okra, cooked shrimp, and onion.
Acarajé is very common in the Bahia region in the northeastern part of Brazil. It is closely linked to the religious customs of Africa, in combination with those of Brazil. The acarajé has at least two versions, a vegetarian with green tomatoes and chili, and the one called abara, in which the ingredients, instead of frying, are boiled.
Generally, this dish is eaten as a snack and it can be found at almost every street stand in Bahia. As a curious fact, acarejé cannot be sold in restaurants. There is an organization called the Association of Acarejé Bahianas, whose main task is to support the street vendors and to prevent this dish from being part of the menu of any of the formal establishments, and thus maintain the sale of this product in the streets. It is a tradition that they intend to maintain in this way.
Vetapá is a kind of puree made by blending previously cooked shrimp, peanuts, bread soaked in coconut milk, ginger, onion, salt, coriander and pepper. It should be heated in a shallow pot or casserole over low heat while adding coconut milk gradually.
Vetapá comes from Africa as well. In the past, this dish could mostly be found in the Bahia region where it influenced the cuisine of that area. In the meantime, this recipe has spread throughout the entire Brazilian territory and adapted specific characteristics of each region.
One of the most notable variantions of this dish is the one prepared in Amazonas, where it does not contain peanuts. While in other areas, it is accompanied by rice, because its consistency is practically a cream. Many people usually serve it with meat, fish, and fresh squid. An excellent combination is to use it as a filling for acarajé.
Picanha is a beef cut characteristic of Brazil. The origin of its name is related to the cattle ranching carried out in Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso. It is a rod used by cattle ranchers to drive cattle.
This rod had at one of its ends an iron point with which the cattle was prodded in the lumbar region, in the posterior part. Subsequently, this area adopted the name of picanha.
The picanha is located at the back of the cow’s loin, has a triangle shape and is covered with a layer of fat that increases its flavor.
This dish is best grilled, but you should avoid direct heat. This way it stays juicy. When making a trip to Brazil, you absolutely have to find time to taste this exquisite dish!
About 10 minutes of cooking on the hot grill is enough for this juicy delicacy. Generally, I would ask for medium-rare to take advantage of the juiciness of the cut.
Moqueca de peixe
Moqueca de peixe (fish moqueca) is a popular Brazilian dish that is very common in the provinces of Espírito Santo and Bahia. It is prepared with loins of grouper, snapper, or sea bass, seasoned with salt and pepper, and marinated in lemon juice.
Red and green bell pepper and onion are fried and the fish is added with palm oil, shrimps, coconut milk, coriander and, ground chili. Then, you let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Moqueca means a stick for grilling over hot coals. It comes from moquem, a native expression. The natives used to cook fish and meat wrapped in banana leaves over a fire. Then they used a stick to roast them, very similar to the skewers we know.
Nowadays, this kind of soup is prepared in a clay pot, an element as traditional as the fish dish itself, to the point of being considered an intangible national treasure, due to its cultural value.
Casquinha de siri
Casquinha de siri is a dish that is frequently consumed in the coastal regions of Brazil. This dish is made with crab meat that is marinated with lemon juice, then onion, tomato and bell pepper previously sautéed with coriander and garlic are added. Finally, cassava flour and Parmesan cheese are added to bake it. It is traditionally served in a crab shell.
Although there is no certainty as to its origin, it is well known that countries such as France and Portugal use the shells of crustaceans to prepare and serve some of their dishes.
Often you will find shells made of disposable plastic. This is an option widely used in bars and restaurants to serve the appetizer in a simpler way, without reducing the quality and flavor of the product.
In Brazil, thanks to its different regions, there are several versions of the casquinha de siri. For example, in some regions they include crayfish, dogfish, shrimp, cod, various types of shredded fish meat, or salmon.
Casquinha de siri is usually related to fishermen’s food, however, this dish can be found in high-end restaurants as well. It is very popular with tourists on the beaches or as a starter dish.
Carne de sol (Meat of the Sun)
Carne de sol is a Brazilian delicacy that is prepared by exposing beef to the sun for about four days, with enough salt to prevent it from decomposing. This process apparently dates back to prehistoric times, although this is a common practice in Portugal as well, so it is very likely that it originally came from Europe.
Carne de sol has three versions: Carne de sol, carne charque and carne seca. Although the result is similar, they vary in preparation.
It is believed that during the first years of colonization this method was used to transport meat from one place to another so that it could be consumed without affecting people’s health. As time went by, it became a traditional dish, characteristic of the northeastern region of Brazil.
For its preparation it is advisable to wash the meat well to remove excess salt and then cut it into small squares. In a hot frying pan with olive oil, add sliced onion and fry the meat with the vegetables for about three minutes. The preparation must be stirred constantly. This dish is served with white rice and salad.
Pirarucú de casaca
Pirarucu de casaca is one of the characteristic dishes of northern Brazil, specifically in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas. It is made with green cherio, coconut milk, olives, fried plantain, fish meat and manioc flour.
Northern Brazil is an area of many rivers and lakes. They abound in fish such as the Cachorro, Tambaquí and the Pirarucú, one of the largest freshwater fish, second only to the Beluga Sturgeon. To have an idea of its dimensions, the Pirarucú can weigh up to 250 kilograms.
To prepare it, the fish must be left to soak for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Then it should be boiled for about 15 minutes in clean water, drained, and finally shredded to preserve it.
Then chop the onion, peppers and tomato into small pieces and sauté them in olive oil to soften them. Then add the fish and fry it for a few minutes while adding the coconut milk gradually, so that it keeps the moisture.
In order to make the crumbs, mix the flour and what is left of the coconut milk, fry the potatoes and plantains and then, in an ovenproof container, make four layers made up of the crumbs, the fish, the plantains, and the fried potatoes. After 10 minutes in the oven, this meal can be served and enjoyed.
Buchada de Bode
Buchada de bode is a very popular dish in northern Brazil, where you will find many goats. For this reason, this animal is often used in the preparation of meals. Bode is a Portuguese word that in Spanish means goat, while buchada is the animal’s stomach.
However, buchada can be made with the stomach of other animals such as lamb or ox, in fact, any livestock, although goat is the most popular especially in Pernambuco and Ceará.
This dish is very similar to haggis from Scotland. The method of preparation is as follows: the stomach must be stuffed with various organs such as: intestines, blood, lungs, liver, etc., everything is seasoned, then sewed and finally cooked. In some restaurants the buchada de bode is served inside a larger stew.
The buchada is not very popular outside Brazil, although within its borders it has many fans. It is noteworthy that during election periods, politicians often eat this dish publicly to gain followers among the ordinary citizens.
(Rice with capote) Guinea-fowl with Rice
Rice with capote is a common dish in Pauí, a Brazilian state located in the northeast. The capote is a guinea fowl that is found in the area and from which this dish is made. The meat of this bird is tougher than that of the guinea fowl, so it needs more cooking time, but it is said that it tastes very similar to pheasant.
To prepare it, the meat must be shredded, mixed with rice with paprika and cheiro-verde, then a fried capote egg is added. The yolks of this egg are usually much darker than those of common hens.
There are versions of capote in brown sauce, or fried in coconut milk, however, the original and most demanded is rice with capote.
The recipe is complemented by tomato, onion, parsley, green bell pepper, fresh coriander, green onion, garlic, coriander seeds, bay leaf, cumin, vinegar, and white wine.
In each of its five regions, Brazil offers a culinary experience. It is a land rich in culture and natural resources, which have obviously been very well exploited, especially in the cuisine. Because of its great variety, Brazilian food is far from boring because in each region you can find a version of a dish that will surprise and amaze you again.