From feijoada to churrasco: an introduction to Brazilian cuisine
How Brazilian cuisine was inspired by food from hundreds of different nations
Brazil is largely known for its sandy beaches, legendary footballers, refreshing Caipirinhas, and, of course, beautiful places like Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Santa Catarina and the Amazon rainforest.
But it’s not known anywhere near as well for its cuisine. Sure, we have all seen a few more Brazilian Rodizio Churrascarias (steakhouses) pop up in London and other major cities around the world, but there’s a lot more to Brazilian food.
So, what do the locals eat?
Brazil’s economic struggle over the centuries is what has led to the creation of some remarkably unique dishes and styles of cooking that has put Brazil on the gastronomy map. Brazil still has a big divide between social classes, so what your ‘average local’ will have for breakfast, lunch or dinner will vary significantly.
Historically, most Brazilian households had somewhat limited choices of meat, fruit and vegetables. Therefore, the daily staple was whatever could be sourced within budget that provided enough ‘fuel’ for the long working day. So, ‘arroz e feijão’ (rice and beans) was born – and even today it's still very much on the main lunch menu in many households.
But make no mistake; for two simple foods, it’s filling, quite nutritious and very tasty. What you will always find with Brazilian food is that it’s always very well flavoured and seasoned.
Wherever you go in Brazil, the quality and variety of meat is usually outstanding (as is the price in comparison to Europe). Seaside cities and towns have an equally fantastic range of meat, and also fresh seafood and fish. Some seaside restaurants serve fish that was only caught a few hours prior.
Right, on to some of Brazil's other signature dishes:
Here’s one I’m sure you've all heard of. Feijoada is the national dish of many countries, which all claim the ‘feijoada’ crown – therefore, there are as many variants to this dish as there are FoodTribers. But Brazilian feijoada is the original and best (fine, I may be a little bit biased on this topic).
Feijoada's beginnings stem from slavery in Brazil; slaves would be given ‘feijão preto’ (black beans) for their main meal. They would take the black beans and their owner's meat scraps, such as tongues, intestines and whatever else they were allowed to have. All of this combined would make a feijoada stew.
Centuries later, this has become a Sunday tradition in most households, though the meat ingredients have (thankfully) evolved significantly. With Brazilians now able to afford better cuts of pork, it tends to no longer be made with meat scraps but with pork belly, loin, ribs and linguiça (smoke-cured sausage). Feijoada is typically served with white rice, sautéed cabbage and farofa (toasted cassava/corn flour mixture).
Churrasco Brasileiro (Brazilian barbecue)
Churrasco Brasileiro (Brazilian barbecue)
This is very much a weekend staple. If you are not having feijoada, you'll be having a churrasco, with all of your family and close friends invited. This will happen every weekend, without fail. In fact, I'm pretty sure church and churrasco are regarded with the same level of importance.
A churrasco usually consists of steak, chicken, linguiça (smoke cured sausage) and chicken hearts – no, don’t groan, they are seriously underrated – all seasoned with rock salt and a bit of garlic, skewered and grilled on a charcoal barbecue. This is usually accompanied by one or two variations of salad, rice and farofa. Some households will have feijoada as well (and these families probably won’t need to eat again for about four days).
There is something that I’ve forgotten to mention, surprisingly, which makes its debut fairly early on in the day and is consumed almost as much as red meat: beer. And lots of it.
This is a truly divine seafood dish that originated in north-east Brazil, in the Salvador region (state of Bahia). As well as red meat, Brazil is super rich with some of the best seafood you'll ever have, though you do have to go to the right places. Northern cities, such as Salvador, Fortaleza and Recife are seafood hotspots, for example
Anyway, Moqueca is a fish and seafood-based stew dish that's is very simple to make, as are most traditional Brazilian dishes. Its key ingredients are diced tomatoes, onions and coriander (a favourite herb in Brazil), topped with coconut milk. Traditionally, it is cooked slowly in a clay pot and served with white rice and pirão (fish juices combined with cassava flour).
Of course, there is much more to Brazilian cuisine...
...but if I wrote about everything, it would take you about a fortnight to read the whole article. If there are any dishes you would like the recipe for, pop a comment below and I will post the recipe separately.
(Credit to John Coleman for the inspiration to write this article – it's the one I've enjoyed putting together the most so far.)