By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
January 9, 2016
Minas Gerais is a state in the southeast of Brazil marked by rolling hills, mountains and a sky that is said by some to be the bluest in the country. Minas has played an important part in the history of Brazil, playing a role akin to the Wild West in the United States when gold was discovered in the depths of its mountains. Nowadays, the gold is all but gone, and all of the misery and riches it has brought has gone with it, with the exception of the gold-adorned churches of Ouro Preto. But the inflow of people that occurred in these times has not only made it the second most populous state in the country, but also one of the most culturally rich states. Among these riches, is a culinary tradition amazing in its diversity and richness of flavors.
In Brazil, the cuisine from Minas is known as the epitome of home-cooked food, and some even go as far as calling it “the soul of Brazilian cuisine”. From the Portuguese colonizers, it has inherited elaborate pastries and thick broths and stews. From indigenous culture, it inherited the use of many local spices and plants such as manioc. And from the African culture that came to Brazil with the slaves it took its ingenuity and capacity to create and adapt recipes with whatever resources available. The trademark of mineira cuisine is the wooden stove and the assortment of rustic pans and pots made of clay or stone. Whether in Minas or not, any mineiro restaurant that prizes itself still used this setup.
One of the things that is most notable in mineira cuisine is the abundance of thick broths and stews. These usually have a lot of meat, specially chicken and pork meat, and are as caloric as they are delicious. It also uses a lot of native vegetables and roots, such as kale, cassava, and okra. Two staple dishes of Minas are the Feijo Tropeiro and Tutu de Feijo, which are broths elaborated from cassava flour, beans and a mix of other ingredients. Pork is used with no restraints in Minas, and can be found prepared in a variety of ways. There are pork stews, broths, roasted pork and fried pork. One of the most popular pork recipes from Minas is the torresmo, an appetizer that is made from fried pork skin and fat.
Minas is also notorious for its variety of cheeses, which are very popular through Brazil. Its staple cheese is known through the country as “queijo mineiro” (Minas cheese), which is a whitish cheese with a soft texture that is often served as a dessert together with goiabada, a guava-based candy. From Minas also comes the “po de queijo” (cheese bread), a cheese flavored roll that might be the most recognizable Brazilian snack.
To top it all, Minas is known for its cachaa, a distilled spirit made from sugar cane that is known outside of Brazil for its use in preparing caipirinhas, a notorious Brazilian fruit cocktail. Although cachaa is popular through the whole country, the cachaa from Minas is reputed to be the best. It also goes down very well with the mineiro dishes, especially the heavy pork-based ones. If you are a fan of eating and drinking well, you shouldnt miss the opportunity to try some authentic mineira cuisine washed down for some cahaa. But be warned: if you are wary of caloric meals, this experience might not be for you.