Brazil: Food Guide - Dining Out

The world's largest country in the tropics

Brazil Food Guide - Dining Out

Brazil's major cities offer a wide variety of international and regional cuisines, and most of the restaurants offer good, moderately priced food. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, in particular, have thriving world-class restaurant scenes with increasing numbers of innovative eateries serving creative contemporary cuisine, in which European methods and techniques are applied to tropical ingredients: The results are mouth-watering.

Try traditional Brazilian cuisine as well, especially feijoada (a delicious mix of rice, black beans and pork, usually served for lunch on Saturday at many restaurants). Tropical fruits and fruit juices are wonderful and unlike anything in the temperate zones of the world. Try to sample cupuacu, bacuri, caju (cashew fruit), umbu and acai (a purple fruit from the Amazon that's healthy, delicious and considered to be an aphrodisiac). Carnivores will love the churrascarias, restaurants specialising in grilled meat. The southern-most state of Rio Grande do Sul, bordering Argentina, is reputed for its succulent cuts of barbecued beef, raised on the Pampas. Snack bars (called lanchonetes) and bakeries (padarias) offer a variety of delicious, fresh-made pastries, breads and finger foods.

Along the vast north-eastern coast, fish and seafood are in abundance. Bahian cuisine is especially reputed. While in Salvador, try moquecas (a fish or seafood stew bathed in tomatoes, palm oil, cilantro and coconut milk), xinxim de galinha (a traditional chicken stew made with crushed cashews and dried shrimp) acarajes (a light but crunchy fritter made of pureed beans and stuffed with dried shrimp, okra and a puree of shrimp, bread and cashews known as vatapa). Along Bahia's coast, there is a strong African influence in the cooking. Other parts of the north-east and the north include many exotic indigenous ingredients in their dishes. The state of Minas Gerais has one of Brazil's richest and most original cuisines. Dishes feature pork and chicken: Two favourites are frango com quiabo (chicken with okra) and frango ao molho pardo (chicken in a "mulatto" sauce made from its own blood). Another classic dish is a thick stew of pork, sausage and pureed beans called tutu a mineira. In general, meals are served with plenty of greens, ranging from the jade-coloured chuchu to a nutritious leaf called ora-pro-nobis. Minas Gerais is also famed for its creamy white cheeses (queijo de Minas), used to make paes de queijo, golf-ball-shaped cheese bread, and for its many desserts.

The country's favourite soft drink is Guarana, made from an Amazonian berry reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Brazilians like their coffee hot, sweet and strong (the local joke is that the coffee served in the U.S. is frio, fraco e fedido—cold, weak and stinky). Cafezinhos (very strong and sweet coffee in small cups) are nearly always served before and during business meetings—it's mildly impolite to refuse. Descendants of Brazil's German immigrants brew some excellent beer. Draft beer is called choppe (pronounced SHO-pee, rhymes with soapy). Cachaca (pronounced ca-SHA-sah) is the local spirit, distilled from sugarcane. It's often served with lime juice, sugar and crushed ice, forming a drink called a caipirinha. And, though they lack ideal conditions, the descendents of Italian immigrants in Rio Grande do Sul have begun to produce some decent wines.