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Brazilian Cuisine

 

 


Brazil's population is a racial mix of native Amerindians, Portugueses, Africans, Italians, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese and Asians. This has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.

Brazil's five main cuisine regions

North

Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins

Collectively, the region is known as Amazônia for it includes a large part of the rain forest, and tributaries flowing into the Amazon River. Culturally, the Amazon basin is heavily populated by native Indians or people of mixed Indian and Portuguese ancestry who live on a diet of fish, root vegetables such as manioc, yams, and peanuts, plus palm or tropical fruits.

The cuisine of this region is heavily Indian-influenced. One popular dish is Caruru do Parã, a one-pot meal of dried shrimp, okra, onion, tomato, cilantro, and palm oil.

Northeast

Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe

Geographically the region comprises a dry, semi-arid region used for cattle ranches inland from the fertile coastal plain, an economically important sugar cane and cacao growing area.

Within the State of Bahia the predominate cuisine is Afro-Bahian, which evolved from plantation cooks improvising on African, Indian, and traditional Portuguese dishes using locally available ingredients.

Typical dishes include: Vatapa and Moqueca (both have seafood and palm oil)


In the remainder of the coastal plains there is less African influence on the food, but seafood, shellfish, and tropical fruits are menu staples.

Inland, in the arid, drought stricken cattle-growing and farm lands, foods typically include ingredients like dried meat, rice, beans, goat, manioc and corn meal.

Central-West

Federal District of Brasilia plus Goiás, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul

A region comprising dry open savannas or prairies with wooded terrain in the north. The famous Pantanal, one of the finest game and fishing regions on earth, is also located in the Central-West region of Brazil.

Fish, beef and pork from the vast ranches of the region dominate the menu, along with harvested crops of soybean, rice, maize, and manioc.

Southeast

Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo

The Southeast is the industrial heart of Brazil, and is home to several distinctive cooking styles for which Brazil is probably best-known.

In Minas Gerais the regional dishes include a lot of maize, pork, beans, and local soft ripened cheeses. Around Rio and São Paulo, feijoada completa (a simmered bean and meat dish of Bahian origin), is popular especially as a Wednesday or Saturday luncheon. Also consumed frequently is arroz-feijao, or rice and beans. Traditionally, black beans are prepared in Rio, pinto (brown) beans in São Paulo, and either black or pinto in Minas Gerais. Another typical food in São Paulo is the Virado à Paulista, that consists of rice, tutu de feijão (beans with manioc flour), stewed cabbage and pork meat.

In São Paulo, the influence of European and North African immigrants is noticed in the region's cuisine. The majority arrived from Italy, along with many from Portugal, Spain and Japan, plus other European and Arab nations. So, there it's possible to find all kind of cuisines.

In Espírito Santo, there is a lot of Italian and German influence in local dishes both savory and sweet. The state dish, though, is of Amerindian origin, and is called Moqueca Capixaba (mainly fish and tomato). Minas Gerais' Cuisine is also strongly felt here, with many restaurants serving that fare. Farofa, Polenta, Couve, Choriso and fried Banana are examples of popular dishes from Minas Gerais.

South

Paran�, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina

To the national cuisine the gaucho (sort of cowboy of the pampa), contributed dishes made with sun- or salt-dried meats and churrasco (a Brazilian relative of the BBQ), a meal of flame grilled fresh meats.

The European immigrants are accustomed to a wheat-based diet, and introduced wine, leaf vegetables, and dairy products into Brazilian cuisine. When potatoes were not available they discovered how to use the native sweet manioc as a replacement.

Staple Ingredients

Beans (feijão) Beans appear on the table daily in many forms and colors. Some consider the black bean (feijão preto) to be the preferred national bean. It is not uncommon, however, to find dried red, white, brown, and even pink beans in the markets.

Coconut (côco) An important ingredient throughout the country, coconut is used in soups, cocktails, poultry, fish, and shellfish recipes, as well as desserts and sweets. Various forms are utilized: unripe green coconuts (côco verde); ripe yellow or brown coconuts (côco amarelo); the soft, almost buttery textured meat from green coconuts (côco de água); or grated (côco ralado). The liquid inside (água de côco) can be drunk. It does not have much taste but is a bit salty.

Palm Oil (azeite de dendê) A heavy tropical oil extracted from the African palm growing in Northern Brazil. One of the basic ingredients in Bahian or Afro-Brazilian cuisine, it adds a wonderful flavor and bright orange color to foods. There is no equivalent substitute, but it is available in markets specializing in Brazilian imports.

Dried, salted codfish (bacalhau) Introduced by the Portuguese, it finds its way into appetizers, soups, main courses, and savory puddings. One common method of refreshing the dried fish is to soak large pieces with the skin and bone removed in cold water for three to four hours, changing the water every hour.

Dried shrimp (camarão seco) In various sizes, dried shrimp are utilized in many dishes from the northern regions of the country. Usually obtainable in North America at oriental or Latin food stores. Before use they are covered with cold water and soaked overnight (though unlike the codfish, the shrimp does not require hourly water-changes). The water is discarded before the shrimp are used.

Lime (limão) In Brazil the fruit is green, small and quite tart, more like an American lime would appear and taste.

Rice (Brazilian style - arroz brasileiro or arroz simples) Long grained rice is briefly sauteed in garlic and oil before being boiled. In addition to garlic, some Brazilian cooks add small amounts of onion, diced tomato, or sliced black olive for additional flavor. Properly done, each grain is fluffy and the rice will not stick together.

  • Making Brazilian-style rice: Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan and saute a clove of garlic. When browned add salt. Add the rice and saute 2 to 3 minutes -- until it looks translucent. Do not allow the grains to brown. Add hot water (about 2 to 2-1/2 cups per cup of rice). Cook, partially covered, over medium-high heat until most of the water is absorbed. Uncover, lower the heat and continue cooking until fluffy.

Toasted Manioc Meal (farofa) Manioc flour lightly sauteed in butter until it resembles buttered bread crumbs. Other ingredients are frequently added. It's eaten as a side dish to the feijoada.

Feijoada Completa - the national dish of Brazil For over 300 years feijoada completa, a mixture of black beans, pork and farofa (manioc meal) has been the national dish of Brazil. It started as a dish for the slaves brought from Africa, made out of cheap ingredients: pork ears, feet and tail, beans and manioc flour. It has been adopted by all the other cultural regions, and there are hundreds of ways to make it. Visit http://www.brazzil.com/p24nov96.htm for some of the many recipes.

Other special dishes

  • Salgadinhos are small savory snacks, mostly sold in corner shops. There are many types of filled and fried pastries. Pão de Queijo ("cheese bread"), a typical Brazilian cuisine, is a small pastry filled with (or made of) cheese, usually with requeijão (a soft cheese), sometimes called by its most famous brand, Catupiry®. It is typical of the state of Minas Gerais. Coxinha is a chicken croquette shaped like a chicken thigh. Kibe is the salgadinho version of the Syrian dish Kibbeh.
  • Cuscuz branco is milled tapioca cooked with coconut milk and sugar. The technique is identical to how couscous is cooked in hot water, but this is a dessert.
  • Açaí, Caju, and many other tropical fruits are shipped from the Amazon all over the country and consumed in smoothies.
  • Hot dogs in Brazil are always offered with a dazzling array of condiments including various dressings, boiled quail eggs, peas, corn, olives and crunchy potato straw.
  • Cachaça is the Brazil's native liquor, distilled from sugar cane, and it is the main ingredient in the national drink, the Caipirinha.
  • Special ethnic foods and restaurants that are frequently found in Brazil include Lebanese, Syrian, and Japanese cuisine (Sushi).
  • Pizza is also quite popular. Usually on rolled out crust that is very similar to pie crust, very little sauce, and a number of interesting toppings in addition to the traditional pizza toppings - like guava jam and cheese, banana and cinnamon, catupiry and chicken, and chocolate.

Vegetarian and vegan food

Although many traditional dishes are prepared with meat or fish, it is not difficult to live on vegetarian food as well. The country has a rich supply of all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Even on the streets, one can bargain cheese buns or Pão de Queijo.

Yet, not every restaurant will provide vegetarian dishes and some seemingly vegetarian meals may turn out to include unwanted ingredients. A simple and usually inexpensive alternative, which is also advisable for vegans, is to visit kilo- or all-you-can-eat-restaurants (which should not be mistaken for fast-food-restaurants). In the former, food is paid based on its weight, in the later, a fixed price is paid for an arbitrary amount of food. In both cases, customers usually assemble the dishes of their choice from a large buffet in self-service. In general, these restaurants continuously prepare a wide range of fresh dishes and one can easily find food that fits the personal taste.

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