Flavors of Brazil
Food, for Brazilians, has much to do with fellowship—portions are often heaping and, rather than coming individually on one plate, arrive in a series of platters meant to be shared among diners.
Meat and Carbs
Perhaps the most well-known Brazilian staple is meat, especially those that come from churrascarias (grills): sizzling cuts of beef, some lined generously with fat, served on skewers by men in aprons and boots called gaúchos. (The name refers to the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, with which the style is associated, though churrascarias are found throughout Brazil.)
Churrascarias also serve up sausages (linguiça), chicken (frango), and various types of fish. Expect little in the way of spice—just salt and garlic. The natural flavors of the meat are meant to carry the meal. In a rodízio-style churrascaria, you get all the meat and side dishes you can eat at a fixed price. Rodízio means "going around," which explains the gaúchos who constantly circle the restaurant, only resting their skewers to slice another strip of meat onto your plate.
Feijoada, black beans stewed with fatty pork parts, is a popular party food synonymous with carefree weekend afternoons spent digesting the heavy dish. The dish is often topped with farofa (toasted manioc root) and served with couve (collard greens) and rice. Brazilians traditionally give guests an orange slice after the meal to help with the aching belly that ensues from its consumption.
Native Fruits and Vegetables
Beyond the meat-and-carbs crowd-pleasers, Brazil's tropical expanse allows for a diversity of fruits and vegetables. Visitors will find these on display in colorful feiras (fresh food fairs) throughout the country. Tropical citrus fruits include maracujá (passion fruit), abacaxi (pineapple), mamão (papaya), tangerine (tangerine), and lima-da-pérsia (something like a sweet, crisp version of an orange). All are frequently found as mixers in caipirinhas, Brazil's national drink made with cachaça, a sugarcane-based liquor.
Visitors should make a point to sample some of the unique flavors of the Amazon, such as cupuaçú, a fragrant yellow fruit, or mangaba, something of a cross between a honeydew and a durian. At lanchonetes, no-frills snack bars that consist of metal chairs lined along a bar, you'll often find velvety ice drinks made with açai, a purple Amazonian berry that is touted for its health benefits. These drinks are usually mixed with guaraná, an energy-packed red berry used as a sweetener.
Bahian food from Brazil's northeast revolves around seafood and is normally spicy and hot. Specialties include moqueca, a seafood stew cooked quickly in a clay pot over a high flame, and acarajé, a patty deep-fried in dendê oil and filled with sun-dried shrimp and hot-pepper sauce. Brazilians from around the country lick their chops at the mention of pirão de peixe, a thick blended stew often made with fish heads and manioc flour.
No trip here is complete without an afternoon snack of Brazilian coffee, often served without milk and heavy on sugar, and pão frances, freshly baked white bread, or pão de queijo, chewy cheese buns. By the end of your trip you'll understand why Brazilians use the same word to describe not only tasty food but any life experience that is enjoyable: gostoso.Updated: 09-2013
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