Brazil; country of samba, soccer and sand. There are so many reasons to visit this country. It’s a veritable feast of fun and frolics but often the food is overlooked in favour of all the other festivities on offer. This shouldn’t be so; there’s so much to enjoy about the national cuisine, which, owing to the sheer diversity of the ecosystem, landscape and people, comes in many, many glorious guises.
As such, it can be hard to pin down a select few favourites; the breadth of street food stalls, hawkers, roadside eateries and fine dining restaurants is just so broad. With that in mind, we’ve picked out just five favourites – a by no means exhaustive list, but one we hope will give you some indication of the variety on offer here.
So, whether you’re in a vibrant city like Rio de Janeiro, spending time on the beautiful beach of Copacabana or visiting any other Instagrammable location in Brazil, here are our 5 IDEAL dishes to try.
TAPIOCA CREPES – IDEAL FOR BREAKFAST
These unique, pearlescent Brazilian-style, crepe-like-creations are banging, especially when they are filled with cheese. Made from tapioca flour, these paper-thin discs are considered an alternative to bread in Brazil and are ideal for breakfast (or any other time of day, for that matter). If you have a sweet tooth, try one filled with grated coconut and banana. If savoury is more your style then carne de sol, a salted beef from Northeastern Brazil, might well be your thing. Oh and if you get the chance, watch them being made – tapioca flour is poured into a heated pan and sticks together forming the crepe-like shape – it’s a bit like watching a magic trick.
PAO DE QUEIJO – IDEAL FOR A SNACK
You’ll love these moreish cheesy balls before you even know how to pronounce the name probably. Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, this is cheesy bread but on another level altogether. Made from tapioca or cassava flour, these little cheese puffs are totally gluten free, which will be music to some people’s ears. Pão de queijo is often eaten in the morning and chased with an espresso, but we think they are the ideal snack for anytime of day. By the way Pão de queijo is pronounced pow-ge-kay-ju, you might want to practice that delivery before striding up to a seller.
BRIGADEIRO – IDEAL FOR A SWEET TREAT
Any chocolate lover will adore these little Brazilian balls of heaven which are made from condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter and covered completely in chocolate sprinkles. With a soft and delicate texture, the Brigadeiro is Brazil’s answer to a chocolate truffle. This sweet treat was named after Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes in the 1940’s. His wife would make them for fundraising events when he was running for president and since have become the nations favourite sweet. Today you can find them everywhere and at every birthday party, family gathering and other special occasions. The most traditional rendition is made from milk chocolate, however special ‘gourmet brigadeiro boutiques’ sell them in a multitude of different flavours – we love the ones with Brazil nuts or pistachios. Hot molten brigadeiro chocolate cakes are also a thing, and if you see one on the menu, get a slice – nothing compares to its irresistible gooey centre.
Mayra (Maych) © on Flickr
ACAI BOWL – IDEAL FOR A HEALTHY BERRY BOOST
No list of must try foods in Brazil would be complete with the Acai Bowl. Grown on palm trees in the swamps and floodplains of the Amazon, the acai berry is one of those superfoods that everyone raves about. Some people even call it the youth berry. When you’re in Brazil, you must try an acai bowl; which is basically a really thick smoothie that sort of resembles ice cream and is commonly topped with granola and banana. It tastes a bit tangy and bitter and is definitely an acquired taste. But even if you don’t like it at first, remember that it’s doing wonderful things to your body.
FEIJOADA – IDEAL FOR A NOURISHING DINNER
Feijoada is a hearty stew of Portuguese origin, prepared and eaten across the length and breadth of Brazil. While the outlying ingredients and garnishes may differ from city to city and even cook to cook, the mainstays of this nourishing dish are beans and pork, in a whole host of different forms. It’s a real ‘nose-to-tail’ delight, with trotters and pig’s ears often rubbing shoulders with other cuts from the pig. A second consistent in the Feijoada is the deep, dark – some might say moody – hue of the plate, provided by abundant black beans. Enjoyed with rice to soak it up and a piquant salsa to add acidic notes, this is the perfect dinner to offer fuel for a night of dancing and play.