From fish stews to cheesy breads: 7 foods to try in Brazil
If you’re heading off to case out the wilds of beautiful Brazil with LBW Travel this year, then be sure to take some time out from Ipanema and the glowing sands of Ilha Grande for a spot of these Brazilian delicacies. They go from spicy fish stews to fruity concoctions packed with healthy goodness, and are the things any traveler heading to this corner of South America should be sure to sample!
Thick, hearty and filling Feijoada is one of the absolute must-eats of Brazil. Imbued with layer upon layer of strong flavour, the slow-cooked chili-like stew has been known to pack in chorizo sausages, pork cuts, smoky bacon, onions and a whole range of pulses and black beans. In all, a traditional feijoada is supposed to take a whole day to cook, giving the garlic cloves and spices time to seep into the beans and form a thick, taste-bud-tingling gravy. The best cantinas will serve this slow-cooked version of the casserole, plating it up with a hefty side of parsley and tabasco garnish. A cold beer at the ready is recommended!
Packed with a hefty dose of sea shrimps and uber-fresh saltwater fish, one fearless dousing of chilli flakes and paprika, oodles of crushed garlic and tropical coconut milk, moqueca is a Bahian trademark dish. It’s been a staple of the cantinas around Salvador and Porto Seguro for more than three centuries, and is still considered one of Brazil’s most memorable flavors. Freshness is key, with the intermingling of the palm oil and the spice, the creaminess of the coconut and the crunchy spring onion garnish playing nicely on the tongue. There’s also a second version of the stew, served up in Espírito Santo to the south, where it’s cooked in a traditional capixaba tagine-style pan and infused with sea crabs and shellfish.
A perennial Brazilian fav, the farofa is a beautifully simple mixture of cassava flour and mincemeat, onions, olives and garlic paste, all wacked together and sizzled up in a pan with a (not so) healthy dousing of butter and oil. There are loads of variations too, going from added hard-boiled eggs to sides of smoky bacon, a sprinkling of dried fruits or fresh veg. Farofa regularly makes an appearance on the side of a classic Brazilian barbeque, a testimony to just how well it gels with meat cuts straight off the grill!
Pão de queijo
Like the bhaji pavs of the Indian west coast, the small but indelibly tasty pão de queijo have their roots in the Portuguese heritage that made its way to Brazilian shores with the ships of the Age of Exploration. Made from thick and gloopy tapioca flour, the puffs of light and airy dough are embellished with a center of parmesan cheese, giving a salty and flavorsome edge to the dish. Available in most Brazilian states, pão de queijo can be found pre-prepared in bakeries or roadside holes-in-the-wall, offered as a breakfast snack alongside potent Brazilian coffee, or sold as ready-to-cook dough in the supermarkets.
The second fish stew to make this list of Brazil’s must sample foods hails in from the sultry climes of the equatorial north. Drawing its inspiration from the sea and at its best when cooked up with the super-fresh seafood cuts of the local fishing folk, the thick and viscous mixture fuses the likes of tuna steaks and shrimp, crushed peanuts and breadcrumbs, giving an interesting mix of textures and flavors. Chicken versions are also on offer – although this is more common in the holes-in-the-wall of Rio than the traditional kitchens of Bahia and the Coconut Coast where the dish is from! Vatapá is typically paired with a falafel-like Acarajé - a tasty bean paste ball fried off in palm oil.
There’s no better company for flitting between the soaring statue of Christ the Redeemer and the sun-splashed beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana than an ice-cold Açaí sorbet - one of the culinary staples of Rio de Janeiro and the whole of the Amazon basin besides. The brightly-coloured berry is plucked from the Açaí palm tree, before being reduced down into a concentrate and garnished with crunchy oats and other fruits. Supposedly uber-healthy, the mixture is great for that much-needed energy boost before partying the night away in the cantinas of Lapa, or – if it’s the morning after – soothing that hangover between sunbathing sessions by the sea!
Careful: that mouth’s about to water! A cocktail of sweet condensed milk and cocoa powder, choco bits and butter, the brigadeiro is arguably Brazil’s most common national dish. It can be found in bakeries from Fortazela to Florianópolis, in the far-flung towns of the Amazon basin and the remote cities on the edge of the Pantanal. For most all Brazilians, the chocolatey cupcake mixture is part tasty culinary creation part nostalgia, and many don’t even bother plating them up, opting instead to just dive into the bowl with a spoon and dust the lot off!
BOOK A BRAZIL TOUR HERE!