Before going to Brazil this year I had no idea what the food was like. I, the ignoramus I am, imagined it involved a whole lot of pineapple and coconut but beyond that had no idea. What I found rocked my world! The Brazilians LOVE to eat and they do everything food wise to the nth degree! Typical food items are pimped up with cream cheese, extra meat or crispy potato, and their national dishes are heart warming and filling. Enough talk….check out my list of foods you HAVE to try if you visit Brazil!!
1. My all time favourite….Pastel!!
A Brazilian Pastel is a typical street food dish that you'll find at any market in the country. It's essentially a deep fried PIE/ pastry thing, filled with various things. A classic is chicken and catupiry, a really really slutty Brazilian cream cheese that is to Philidelphia what a Vegas stag do is to a casual sunday afternoon shandy down your local. You top it up with homemade sauces, including chili pimento or spiced avocado, and chopped onion and gobble it down in seconds.
2. Grilled Cheese….on the beach.
You heard me. Brazilians love grilled cheese on the beach! That being said, Brazilians love everything on the beach and you can probably find most things there. Whilst your sunbathing, camelos (street vendors) wheel past goods to buy from clothes, jewelery, to BBQ, acai bowls, fried fish and….grilled cheese! They have a little coal stove which they bring to life by whirling it around, and grill your cheese live in front of you. Ahhhh bliss!!
3. Fresh Green Coconut!
I was right about the coconut!! To some Brazilian families, little is more casual than popping to the end of your garden and lopping off a few young coconut for breakfast! I'd never tried it green and young before, and what a revelation! The flesh is slippery and sweet, almost like dim sum wrappings, and the juice has a freshness too it you don't find in its nuttier parents. Gorgeous – and very healthy!
4. Rice and beans….and rice and beans.
Whereas in Britain we love potato, the Brazilians love their rice and beans. These are the staples to every day meals in Brazil and most dishes contain this, plus a main protein element, known as the mistura. The rice and beans are topped with fried cassava flour, called farofa, which bulks it up (like it needed to be!), and more flavour is added through pimento sauce, according to taste. Each family has their own recipe for beans, rice flavouring (normally a mix of onion, celery and garlic) and farofa.
Imagine you could eat ice cream for breakfast every day. Now, open your eyes and WONDER in the realisation that you absolutely can. Sort of. An acai bowl is one of the best things I discovered in Brazil and the first thing I tracked down in London upon my return. It's a bowl of frozen acai berry puree, topped with oats, granola, fresh fruit, or even condensed milk if you're feeling naughty. Acai berries are super good for you too – they have super food status and contain tonnes of antioxidants which help you look and feel younger.
6. Salt beef!
With a climate as hot and humid as Brazil, perhaps it's not surprising that a culture of preserving meat in salt came about. Did you know that 80% of the world's corned beef actually comes from Brazil?? This is used in a number of traditional recipes, such as Escondidinho (which is like a shepards pie but with corned beef and cassava) and is lovely. Bring back corned beef I say!!
7. CACHACA BABY!
Cachaca has got to be the most famous Brazilian export, besides Giselle or Havaianas, and is most commonly drunk in Caiprinha form! Cachaca is a white spirit made from sugar cane in a process not dissimilar to rum production. You only get a handful of cachaca brands in the UK, but in Brazil there are (quite literally) tens of thousands. It's also dirty cheap – you can get a litre bottle of good stuff for around £2, normally unaged. If you visit, be sure to try a few varieties. Although perhaps avoid the below…at around 48%ABV, I'm not sure a can of the stuff is suitable for anything except a fast trip to A&E.
8. Whilst we're on the subject of drink….WTF is this??
Don't be silly…I know what this is – this is a professional blog, don't you know! This is Catuaba -a grotty drink that some Brazilians get drunk on when they're young as it's cheap and sweet. The equivalent, I suppose, to WKD or Archers here.
9. Now that we're warmed up – LOOK AT THIS HOT DOG.
In the UK or USA a hot dog is a great thing- a sausage in a bap (or barm, or breadcake, depending where in the country you hail from), perhaps with a bit of red sauce or an onion or too if you're feeling a bit jazzy.
Go to Brazil and a hot dog is….hell I don't even know what to call it. I'll just come straight out with it it. As standard, a Brazilian hot dog contains: MASHED POTATO, CRISPS (?!?!?!), corn, pulled chicken, cream cheese and american cheese. Oh and the sausage itself. You have to eat it with a spoon and it's the weight of a baby. It's like someone really stoned got the munchies and went wild with the contents of their fridge. Somehow it works though, and it's definitely worth a try when you visit.
I'd compare Coxinha to the Brazilian version of a scotch egg. It's mashed potato or cassava wrapped around various fillings and crispy fried in breadcrumbs. For fillings you get all sorts; classically chicken and more of that catupiry, but also slow cooked beef with cheese, or blue cheese or sweet, berry versions. They're absolutely gorgeous and I ate more than a couple of these during my stay. You can probably get these in the UK if you hunt around (or google it. Come on, it's the 21st Century, you animal!).
Now…take my advice and don't have this the day before you fly. Feijoada is a rootin' tootin' dish of slow cooked black beans with every part of a pig you can think of! From trotters, to belly, to snout – this dish has it all in, and is a pork lovers dream. Brazilians serve feijoada on Wednesdays traditionally, and sides normally include rice, toasted farofa (toasted cassava flour), pimento sauce, picked vegetables and greens. It's heart stopping stuff and should be always followed by a long nap. Preferably not too far away from a bathroom.
12. All the meat in the world….
No food guide to Brazil would be complete without mentioning their beef. Brazil is the second largest beef exporter in the world and you'll never guess the first. If you're thinking Austrailia or the US, you'd be wrong. Stuck? Thought so – it's INDIA!
Pub trivia asides, the Brazilians are stir crazy for beef. Traditional churrascarias serve beef sliced straight from the skewer, all you can eat style. This trend has made it over here, with many restaurants now available serving this. A popular cut in Brazil, now gaining awareness in the West, is the picanha cut (sirloin cap) and this is always available at a churrascaria.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that it's this love of beef that has become one of the major drivers for the deforestation of the Amazon and global warming, as Brazilian farmers clear the rainforest to make room for their herds (want to know more, check out Cowspiracy on Netflix). So…do enjoy beef whilst you're there, but consider going meat free one day of the week or join the #MeatFreeMonday movement to help out.
13. Fried Fish
Fried fish is a staple along the coastal or river areas of Brazil. Their fresh water fish are glorious, served simply with lime or mayonnaise – tilapia is a favourite! Some areas also offer fishing where you can sip beers, munch down fried fish and try and catch your very own river monster!
14. Mega Sushi!
Now I know what you're thinking….Sushi ain't Brazilian! But did you know that Brazil has the largest community of Japanese people outside of Japan? This has birthed its own genre of food, Nikkei, and the sushi culture in Brazil is strong. It's also much more affordable than in the UK. Whereas in London you'd expect to pay at least £40 a person for a big old meal of sushi, in Brazil you can stuff yourself silly for no more than £15 in most places.
Finally, another beach food snack – the biju! This is a delicate tube of crispy pastry, popular for snacking. It tastes like an ice cream cone and is probably more fun to eat than tasty. Neat though, hey!
That's the end of my hit list of things to try on your next trip to Brazil. Obviously there are tonnes more things to try in this beautiful country, and I'll post more in future blogs, but if you get round the above, you'll be off to a flying start. Enjoy and obrigada pela leitura!! Adeus, amigos!