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Est. 1996

Issue 225

September 2015

Food & Drink of Brazil





The cuisine of Brazil, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region. This diversity reflects the country's mix of native Amerindians, Portuguese, Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Poles, Syrians, Lebanese and Japanese among others which has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences. From west to east it stretches nearly 2,700 miles from the Andean foothills eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. The largest cities are Sao Paulo (16 million people), Rio de Janeiro (11 million), Belo Horizante (3.8 million), Salvador (2.3 million), Recife (1.8 million), and Porto Alegre (3.1 million).

Brazil is politically subdivided into 26 states and territories plus the federal district of Brasilia. About 1 million native Indians lived in Brazil when the first Portuguese explorers arrived early in the 16th century. Beginning in 1538, almost 5 million Africans arrived before the abolition of slavery in 1888. Portuguese immigrants were followed by Italians, Germans, Syrians, and Lebanese. Asians arrived during the 1930's

In Brazil , eating is, like so many other things, another pretext for pleasure-taking. There is no such thing as Brazilian haute cuisine per se, but the food tastes damned good almost anywhere you go. Even more remarkable is the cultural know-how about what, where, when and how to eat.

This arte de comer bem (art of eating well) has nothing to do with either fussiness, or pseudo-scientific taboos. Brazilians simply understand that the body feels better when it's kept hydrated with fruit and water while at the beach, or that a fattening little snack and a few sips of strong coffee or cold beer make the ride home from work infinitely more pleasant.

The most basic `Brazilian' meal can include Portuguese olive oil, native manioc, Japanese sushi, African okra, Italian pasta, German sausage and Lebanese tabbouleh. Still, the cuisine can be reduced to three delightful principles: generosity, freshness and simplicity.

The nearest Brazil gets to a national dish is feijoada, a black bean stew which is traditionally served on Saturdays. Visitors must also try out the churrasco (barbecue) restaurants and we highly recommend a visit to a rodizio, where they will keep up the servings of a variety of cuts of meats, unless and until you ask them to stop.

Although Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer, the national drink is cachaça, a sugar cane alcohol. You will find this in the famously potent caipirinhas and mixed with fruit juices in batidas. Guaraná is the most popular soft drink and the draught beer (chopp) is a tasty lager. Brazilian wines are beginning to be noticed internationally.

Servings are generous and the meal will include arroz e feijdo (rice and beans), the principle staples of the Brazilian diet. Each is cooked with garlic and onions. To the rice add tomatoes, and to the beans add bay leaves and perhaps some bacon. On top of the beans, sprinkle farofa - manioc flour sauteed in butter, perhaps with bits of egg or bacon. Grilled meats, known as churrasco or grelhadas, are the meal's crowning glory: chicken, beef or pork is dredged in salt, set on a spit and grilled slowly over an open fire. A green salad or sauteed or steamed vegetables (beets, carrots, green beans, yams or kale) round out the main course. Then follows sobremesa (dessert), which could include either fresh or preserved fruit, a pudding enlivened with coconut or passion fruit, or the flanlike quindim. The meal ends with a strong, sweet shot of Brazilian coffee.

Brazilian restaurants outside of Brazil tend to serve, more specifically Bahian cuisine, perhaps because it's the most obviously exotic. It developed in the kitchens of the region's sugar plantations, and its African origins reveal themselves in the three main ingredients: coconut milk; the spicy malagueta pepper; and dende oil, a reddish-orange extraction of west African palm. The delicious seafood stew known as moqueca includes all three and is a classic Bahian speciality. On the streets of Bahia , you can't escape the smell of acaraje - fritters made with brown beans and shrimp fried in dende oil.

Feijoada Completa

Serves six

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours and 30 minutes (approximately)

Suggested beverages: lime "batida" or beer


800 grams of black beans

250 grams of dried beef ("carne seca")

250 grams of salted pork ribs

1 pork trotter

1 pork tail (or ear)

100 grams of smoked loin of pork

80 grams of smoked bacon

2 large pork sausages ("paio")

1 Portuguese sausage

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 soup spoon of olive oil

2 bay leaves

1 orange


The night before, clean the port trotter and tail and soak them in cold water together with the already cleaned pork ribs. In a separate bowl, soak the dried beef cut into pieces. Change the water in each bowl at least four times.

Put the salted meats on the stove in a pan with plenty of water. Boil for 10 minutes, drain off the water, pour in clean water and cook. Use the same procedure for the dried beef, putting it to cook in a separate pan. When the meats are tender, but not shredded, drain off the water and cut the pork ribs into pieces. Set aside.

Cut the "paio" and Portuguese sausage into thick slices, the smoked bacon into small cubes, and the smoked pork into medium-sized cubes.

Place the bans in a large pan with a thick bottom. Add water, the bay leaves, and the orange cut in half, with the inner peel but without the outer peel. After cooking for 45 minutes, add the salted and smoked meats, the dried beef, sausage and "paio." Leave to cook for 20 more minutes.

Remove two soup ladles of beans from the pan. Chop the onion and garlic finely. Sauté them, without letting the brown, in a skillet in the olive oil. Add the bean paste to the skillet and cook for two minutes. Return the entire mixture to the large pan, mix and taste for salt. Adjust the temperature as necessary and leave everything to cook 20 minutes more or until well cooked. Serve with white rice, sautéed kale, manioc meal. Accompanied by fresh orange slices.

The meats can vary according to individual taste. It is very important that the oily build-up on the surface be skimmed off periodically while cooking.


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Mood Food is published by PCSM, London, England © 2015


Peter J. Grove

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email: GroveInt@aol.com