The Indigenous Influence in Brazilian Cuisine

By Pedro Souza
August 8, 2017

The indigenous people of Brazil have been here long before Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived in 1500 on an expedition. Through the years they have been systematically marginalized, living now mostly in the edges of society. Yet, Brazilian culture as a whole has assimilated much from indigenous peoples. This influence is observable in many areas, from the language, which has incorporated many native words into Portuguese, to the habit of taking showers daily. Yet, in few areas is the native influence as alive as in Brazilian cuisine.

Brazilians not only eat many dishes learned from the natives, but they have also assimilated ingredients from traditional indigenous culinary and incorporated them in the culinary traditions that have arrived with immigration from other countries. Now, it is impossible to separate indigenous culinary from the Brazilian culinary tradition as a whole.

One of the ingredients traditionally used by indigenous peoples that is now widely used through the whole country is cassava, a tuberous root very rich in carbohydrates that grows in the tropics. The use of cassava based-dishes is arguably the greatest contribution to Brazilian cuisine. Natives use cassava to make flour, which they then use in many different dishes. They mix it with meat for example to make a dish called paçoca. Later, a sweet version of paçoca was developed with sugar and peanuts or cashew nuts instead of meat, which has become more popular than the original dish.

They also use cassava to make a flatbread named biju, which can be eaten with different fillings. Nowdays, biju is a pretty common dish, especially in the northern part of the country. Another cassava-based dish is the mingau, a porridge which the basis of the diet of the native people. Another cassava-based dish is pirão, a broth made of fish and cassava flour and eaten as a side dish in the northeast of the country.

Another ingredient that was an important part of their diet is corn. They not only used it to make an array of dishes, but also to produce an alcoholic beverage known as cauim. One of the native corn-based dishes that was incorporated and mixed with foreign influence is canjica. The original version consisted simply of a corn paste, but the Portuguese have added sugar and cinnamon to turn it into a delicious dessert. They are also the creators of pamonha, a corn cake wrapped in banana leaves that is often sold as street food. Also, as surprising as it sounds, natives also used to make their own version of popcorn.

These dishes and ingredients are the most noticeable contribution from the natives in Brazilian cuisine, but the indigenous influence in Brazilian culinary is noticeable all throughout the country. It can be noticed for example in the use of native fruits such as açai, guaraná, araça and cubiu, as well as in vegetables such as caruru and taiba. Mainstream cuisine is also rediscovering ingredients and recipes that have remained fairly marginalized. In the melting pot that is Brazilian cuisine, the legacy of the indigenous peoples remains one of the most important influences.

The Gaucho Way of Barbecuing

By Pedro Souza December 27th, 2016

Everyone that has come to Brazil knows how delicious Brazilian food is. Few things are as satisfying as a big plate of rice, beans and farofa complete with a large steak. Among a wide array of dishes and foods, the gaucho-style barbecue known locally as “churrasco” stands out as a reference when it comes to meat.

The gauchos are the inhabitants of grasslands known as pampas, which are found mostly in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. They are known for being excellent horsemen, and they are often hired to herd cattle through the year. Playing a role akin to cowboys in the United States, the gauchos have become a folk symbol in Argentina and Uruguay. In Brazil, the gauchos are concentrated in the south of the country. Nevertheless, their legendary way of making meat has spread like wildfire through Brazil, becoming a staple of the national cuisine.

In Brazil, the gaucho barbecue emerged in the 17th century in communities catholicized by Jesuit monks. The meat would be spiced with coarse salt and fat before being placed in the ground with stakes around a fire. Over a period of several hours, the meat was roasted by the embers. This process that enhances the taste and texture of the meat, quickly became a staple in the state of Santa Catarina, in the South of Brazil.

In the beginning, the meat of choice for the gaucho barbecue was the rib, which acquired a texture that makes it so tender that it almost dissolves in your mouth as you eat it. As the method gained popularity and spread to other regions as well, people started experimenting with different cuts of meat, condiments and ingredients to enhance the process. A cut that has become widely popular for example is the picanha, a juicy cut from the rear of the steer that has generous amounts of fat. Another popular cut in Brazil is the flank steak, known locally as fraldinha. Yet, these are just a few among an incredible array of meat cuts to make any mouth water.

As the gaucho barbecue developed and became popular through the country, a new concept emerged: The “rodízio”. In a rodízio steakhouse, a costumer will pay a fixed price for an all-you-can eat buffet of gaucho barbecue. In most rodízios, costumers will be greeted with a table where they can get salad, vegetables and other side-dishes to eat with their meat. The different cuts of meat however, are served at the table in skewers by waiters. On a single rodízio, one might experience more than 10 different cuts of meat, providing one with a real tour through the flavors offered of gaucho barbecue.

The rodízio is considered the epitome of gaucho barbecue, which considered by many to be the holy grail of all barbecues. If you are a meat lover and find yourself in Brazil, you should not miss the opportunity of going to a rodízio steakhouse. Although they are usually a bit pricey, it is a remarkable experience. If you don’t live in Brazil, you can still find one in some countries such as the United States and Canada, where they are starting to become popular. Either way, one thing is guaranteed: you are in for a hell of a ride!

Brazil: In Need of a Snack? Come Taste Our Salgados!

Coxinha222 By Pedro Souza
June 26, 2016

The Portuguese word “salgado” literally means “salty”, but in Brazil it has acquired another meaning as well. Salgados are snacks sold by grocery stores, bars, street vendors and gas stations all across the country. Coming in many shapes, they have become a staple of Brazilian food. Below, we have listed some of the best salgados we have to offer to make your mouth water.

Coxinha: Probably the most popular salgado, the coxinha is found all over the country. It consists of shredded chicken meat and catupiry cheese covered in dough, molded into a shape that resembles a water drop and then fried in oil. If you ever go to Brazil, do not miss your chance to try a coxinha.

Pão de queijo (Cheese bread): One of the main staples of Brazilian food, pães de queijo are nothing more than cheese-flavored baked roll. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, these snacks are as delicious as they are simple.

Bolinha de queijo (Cheese balls): As the name implies, this is nothing more than a ball of cheese covered in dough and fried. Sometimes ham is also added to the filling.

Empadinha: Empadinhas are miniature pies that can be filled with a variety of things. Some of the most common fillings are chicken, heart of palm and shrimp, but the possibilities are pretty much endless.

Risole: A moon sized snack filled with ham and cheese and sometimes fried. Different fillings such as shrimp or meat can also be used.

Kibe: Made of fried ground beef and bulgar wheat, kibes are always a good call. Originally from the middle east, they can be found in almost any gas station and street bar in Brazil nowadays.

Pastel: A staple of Brazilian street food, a pastel is nothing more than a half-circle or rectangle-shaped fried pastry with a filling. While pastéis are sold in bars, restaurants and a diversity of places, they are commonly associated with street vendors and street fairs.

Bolinho de Aipim: Delicious fried yucca balls filled with meat, chicken or cheese.

Croquete (Croquette): Fried croquettes are quite popular in Brazil, especially as bar food. While there are different types of croquettes, meat croquettes are a favorite.

Acarajé: A typical snack from the northeastern state of Bahia, the acarajé is a deep fried black-eyed pea cake filled with dried shrimp and topped with coconut, cashews, garlic, pepper and more shrimp. In Bahia, acarajés are often sold by street vendors.

Esfiha: A salgado of Arabic origin, the esfiha is baked snack filled with meat and vegetables or cheese. These delicious snacks can be made open like a pizza or closed like a calzone. To make it even better, you can sprinkle some lemon juice on it.

Brazil: Good Luck in the Year of the Monkey!

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By Marilyn Diggs
March 5, 2016

In February, while revelers in Brazil delighted in carnival delirium, the Chinese had their own celebrating to do. This year the Chinese New Year arrived on February 8th. The very day samba schools were shimmering down Av. Marques de Sapuca in Rio, the Chinese were welcoming in the Year of the Monkey with firecrackers, drums, red lanterns and of course, dragons on parade. Based on the Chinese lunar calendar, New Years Day can fall any time between January 21st and February 20th. Also known as the Spring Festival, it is the most important traditional celebration of the year.

A Festival for Family, Food and Fun
The two main reasons for the festival are to wish for a lucky and prosperous upcoming year, and also to commemorate accomplishments, rest up and relax with family. Besides wearing new clothes, decorating with red and shooting off fireworks, one of the main traditional ways to bring in the New Year is eating a "reunion dinner" with family. This smacks of our Thanksgiving meal, where family members try their best to reunite and savor the feast together.

P.F. Changs, the internationally-renowned Asian cuisine restaurant, is the official sponsor of events that focus on the Chinese New Year in Brazil. If you missed the dancing dragon and drums in its front entrance, dont fret. Until April 8th you can partake of P.F. Changs special Chinese New Years Menu, consisting of eight recipes to bring you luck in 2016.

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Spicy Firecracker Chicken symbolizes firecrackers used in a ritual to scare away evil spirits and open the door to fortune. Crab Wontons are in the shape of ancient coins and symbolize prosperity and a new start. They are served with chives for protection, and plum sauce for long life, youth and beauty. Continue with seafood, which brings abundance and prosperity. Since shrimp brings happiness Ma La Shrimp is a perfect choice. The Apple Crunch dessert helps new opportunities arrive to you. Just decide what you desire and choose the delectable dish symbolizing your wish for vitality, protection, communication skills, spiritual cleaning, happiness, good health, mind expansion, love, harmony, power, long life or even an aphrodisiac. Choosing the dish is half the fun and you cant go wrong because they are all winners.

If you still want more, request a red piece of paper (representing fire), then write your wish with black ink (representing water) and tie it onto the "Tree of Wishes" (a.k.a. decorative room partitions inside the restaurant). At the end of the Year of the Monkey, P.F. Changs will host a ceremony in which a Buddhist monk will bless the notes before burning them so they can be received by the universe and granted.

The Chinese New Year is a Season of Superstitions – Taboos
These measures will be especially helpful for those who were born in former Years of the Monkey (1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, etc.), washed your hair on Feb. 8th, and/or cleaned your house on Feb. 8th and 9th. It also goes for those who before Feb. 15th did not pray in a temple, asked for a loan, allowed your child to cry, did not have a girl/boyfriend and/or did not wear red underwear. It certainly makes the American tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day for good luck, seem trivial, doesnt it?

These dishes and wishes activity will be available at the four restaurants located in Rio de Janeiro and So Paulo state: Av. Juscelino Kubitschek, 627 in Vila Nova Conceio, S.P. city; Alphaville and Campinas. Until April 8.

Further information: www.pfchangs.com.br

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty-five years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International (a UNESCO publication) as well as newspapers and inflight magazines. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. www.mdiggs.com

Seven Brazilian Desserts Every Foreigner Should Try

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer August 25, 2015 Brazilian cuisine is really diverse and tasty as well. When it comes to sweets and desserts, there is a whole world of sugary goodness to explore. Below, we have compiled five Brazilian deserts for you to try if you get the chance. Brigadeiro Brigadeiros are among the most popular sweets in Brazil, especially at birthday parties. They are basically balls of condensed milk mixed with chocolate powder, which are then covered in chocolate sprinkles. Not only are brigadeiros delicious, but they are also very easy to make at home. If you want to try one but are not in Brazil, you can try making your own. Tapioca Tapioca is a type of pancake made with a particular type of flour. Tapiocas can be salty, but they can also be made into delicious desserts. They can be filled with chocolate, fruits, condensed milk and many other sweet fillings. Personally, I would recommend filling it with bananas and Nutella. Quindim Quindims are amongst the most traditional Brazilian pastries. This delicious treat, which came from the northeast of Brazil, is made from a mix of sugar, egg yolks and ground coconuts, and is usually presented inside an upturned cup. The quindim also has a larger version, which can serve many people, referred to as “quindo”. Pudim de Leite Condensado Different versions of this desert can be found in other countries with different names, but the Brazilian one is made with condensed milk, which makes it sweeter than most versions. The “pudim” is a traditional dessert in Brazil, and can be found in many restaurants and households. If you get the chance to try it, I would recommend not missing the opportunity. Cocada Cocadas are a traditional candy that can be found in many parts of Latin America, specially in Brazil. Made with eggs and shredded coconut, they usually have a chewy texture and a sugary taste, and come in a variety of colors. In Brazil, cocadas are mostly found in the northeast, sometimes being sold in the street by vendors. For candy lovers, it is definitely worth a try. Paoca The paoca is a Brazilian candy made with ground peanuts, cassava flour, sugar and salt. It is eaten mostly in the states of Minas Gerais and So Paulo, but can be found all though the country. Paocas come mostly shaped like a cube or a cork, and have a dry texture and a sweet taste that many say is similar to peanut butter. Whether trying the artisanal or the industrially-made paoca, the experience is highly recommended. Pamonha Pamonhas are a sweet corn-based paste that can be found all through Brazil. There are many different recipes for pamonha, but the traditional one consists of grounded green corn, milk (or coconut milk), sugar, butter and cinnamon. Pamonhas are very popular, and are often sold inside corn husks or wrapped in banana leaves. They usually have a pasty texture and taste delicious. You can contact Pedro via pedro@gringoes.com. Previous articles by Pedro: Getting Married in Brazil 16 Funny Brazilian Expressions The Best Festivals in Brazil for the EDM Lovers – Part 1 6 Common Mistakes Foreigners Make Trying to Speak Portuguese in Brazil Brazil: 10 Hiking Trails for Nature Lovers in the State of So Paulo – Part 1

Sao Paulo City – A Gourmands Dream

By Marilyn Diggs July 21, 2015 The joke in Rio is that restaurants replace beaches for entertainment in So Paulo. Its true. Brazils gastronomical capital keeps restaurateurs competitive, resulting in culinary experiences to be savored. The variety of restaurants in So Paulo is mind-boggling! Here are a few of my favorites. Brasil a Gosto. Take a gastronomic journey throughout Brazil without leaving the table. Dine in this two-story home-turned-restaurant, surrounded by Brazilian folk art and nave paintings. Chef and owner/chef Ana Luiza Trajano taps into the soul of Brazil through reinvented regional dishes that she personally researches. Brazil has very distinctive regional cooking, which makes for a not-soon-to-be-forgotten tasting menu featuring different localities. Exotic tropical fruit juices compliment the delectable degustation menu that changes monthly. Rua Professor Azevedo do Amaral, 70. Jardim Paulista. Tel: 3086-3565. www.brasilagosto.com.br

Don Curro is the best Spanish restaurant in town. Treat yourself to its award-winning paella, made from secret recipes brought from the Spanish Royal Palace where the first cook once worked. Enjoy a variety of savory seafood options, sangria, Spanish appetizers and desserts. The owner, a former bullfighter, moved here in 1958 and opened this popular restaurant with a toreador theme. Edilson Melo, on the premises 31 years, supervises the impeccable service. Rua Alves Guimares 230. Jardim Paulista. Tel: 3062-4712. www.restaurantedoncurro.com.br P.F. Chang’s is a dining experience you won’t soon forget. Although one of the biggest Asian restaurant chains in the world, the focus is on excellence. Its cuisine is innovative with fresh ingredients and first-rate quality. Traditional wok cooking seals in flavor and keeps veggies crunchy. Mostly Chinese, the menu also sports its neighboring countries’ delicacies. Save room for the banana spring rolls dessert. Chinese paintings and Xi’an statues combine with contemporary dcor. Av. Pres. Juscelino Kubitschek, 627. Vila Nova Conceio. Tel: 3044-0571.www.pfchangs.com NB Steak. Brazil is famous for its steakhouses, or churrascarias where waiters continually circulate and slice skewered meat directly onto your plate. NB takes that experience to the next level. In this gourmet steakhouse, waiters still circulate but only offer a top quality bill of fare. The salad choices and garnishes are limited, but top-notch. Here the gaucho barbeques experience has been refined and redefined inside a contemporary, clean decr. There are three locations in So Paulo, all maintaining the high quality of food, coupled with superb service which has earned this restaurant countless awards.www.nbsteak.com.br Charles Edward Bar shows how delicious dishes can be found where you least expect them! This bar combines the names of famed Englishmen Charles Miller and his partner Edward Goddard. Miller is accredited with bringing soccer to Brazil! Partake of brew and spirits in a charming pub, specializing in imported beer and whiskey. Traditional appetizers combine with sophisticated dishes. Live entertainment performs nightly. Dance the night away. Loud, crowded and fun. Rua Mariti (corner of Av. Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek, 1400 T – 1) . Tel: 3078-5022/ 3079-2804. www.barcharles.com.br Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty-five years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in So Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald, UNESCO’s Museum International and several in-flight magazines. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. www.mdiggs.com Previous articles by Marilyn: Brazil: Nature and Culture Combine in One Delightful Spot Beautiful Meets Bizarre in Brazilian Swamps Brazil: Head for the Hills for an Authentic Festa Junina Fazenda Capoava: Tourism – Brazilian Style Dune Walk in Northeastern Brazil Everythings Coming Up Roses in Holambra, the City of Flowers Around Brazil: Embu Das Artes – History, Headdresses and Handicrafts Full Steam Ahead! Chilean Vineyards by Train A Trip to Easter Island: Beyond the Obvious Atacama Desert, Chile – I Came, I Saw, I Explored Journey through the Fjords of Patagonia Around Brazil: Jap Mountains, When Nature Calls Around Brazil: Living the Amazon Brazil: A Spa that Takes Care of Body and Soul Around South America: Puyuhuapi – Chiles Patagonian Secret Around South America: Looking for Adventure in Chiles Patagonia Around South America: Road Trip through a Forgotten Land – Aisn, Chile Conquering Cape Horn Around Brazil: Hang-Gliding Over Rio Around Brazil: Sailing in Paraty Santiago: Gateway to the Chilean Experience The Enchanting Easter Island Nature and Nurturing in Chile’s Lake Region Chilean Patagonia: Going to the Ends of the Earth Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 2 Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 1 Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha