In Brazil, a melting pot defines not only races but its food as well.
The traditional food of Brazil is a combination of many different cultural inheritances that have mixed and created a very interesting and unique cuisine. Originally, the food of Brazil was created by the native indigenous, who have given most of the main roots of the actual gastronomy of the country.
When the Portuguese colonised Brazil, their gastronomy mixed with the traditional indigenous dishes. Then, during the times of slavery, Africans brought their gastronomy to Brazil as well, adding it to the combination of indigenous and Portuguese cuisine. However, these gastronomies didn’t completely merge, in most cases they coexisted.
Then, many other immigrants arrived as well: Lebanese, Germans, Italians, Japanese, Spanish, and many more, adding their dishes to the gastronomy of Brazil as well. This way, the actual gastronomy of Brazil is the result of a combination of cultures and dishes of many different origins.
The food of Brazil uses much fish, meat, tropical fruits, rice, beans, and manioc, among others. These main ingredients can be found in most regions of the country, although the most popular dishes of one region often are not the same as in other region of the same.
A simple and usually inexpensive option, which is also a good bet for vegetarians, is comida a quilo or comida por quilo restaurants (literally “food by kilo value”), a buffet where food is paid for by weight. Another common style is the all-you-can-eat restaurant where customers pay a prix fixe. In both types (known collectively as “self-services”), customers usually assemble the dishes of their choice from a large buffet.
Rodízio is a common style of service, in which a prix fixe is paid, and servers circulate with food. This is common in churrascarias and pizzerias, resulting in an all-you-can-eat barbecue and pizzas of varied flavours, usually with one slice being served at a time.
The regular restaurant where there is a specific price for each meal is called “restaurante à la carte”.
Food makes up an important part of the culture and identity of Brazil, and churrasco (barbecue) is a central feature. Churrascarias (steakhouses) are always fully booked and “barbecuing a little meat” at home with family and friends is not reliant on the weather: come rain or shine, it is a popular choice all year round. Barbecued meat is, alongside feijoada (meat and bean stew), one of the foods that typifies Brazilian cuisine.
The link between man and meat dates back to the dawn of humanity, to the time of cavemen when hunting was essential for survival. The flavour of meat caught on and cooking it was simple. From there we evolved, and in Brazil barbecued meat has become a registered trademark of local culture and tradition.
For tourists who visit Brazil, irrespective of region or city, a trip to a steakhouse is a must, an irresistible opportunity to savour the incomparable and authentic taste of Brazilian barbecue.
GREEN: I WANT MORE. RED: I’M DONE.
The way meat is served in these steakhouses, known as rodízio (which loosely translates as “rotation”) works on the principle of “eat as much as you can” and is as popular amongst foreigners as it is Brazilians.
This is how it works: the restaurant charges a fixed price per head (drinks not included) and you can try every type of meat – chicken, lamb, sausages, and a wide range of beef and port cuts – repeating as many times as you wish. However, Brazilian BBQ these days it is not only about the more traditional cuts. In Brazil there are some steakhouses that already offer some unusual options on their menus, meats that go down well with the more demanding and adventurous diners, such as wild boar, alligator, frog, quail, rabbit and ostrich.
With the rodízio system the waiters come to the table carrying large skewers and present you with various types of meat from which to choose, and right there at the table they slice the meat (to your preferred thickness) onto your plate, according to how you like it cooked (medium rare, medium or well done).
While you are eating, there is a unique etiquette of “table signs” – which are made of paper, wood or metal, depending on the creativity of the steakhouse – which indicate your appetite via a simple colour code: the green sign, which says “Yes, please”, means that the waiters are free to circulate the table, continuing to offer all kinds of meat, until you flip the sign over to show the red side, which says, “No, thanks”, indicating that you are satisfied for now. In addition to the meat, the steakhouses also offer a buffet of salads, and some go even further, adding hot dishes, sushi, fish, cheeses, cold meats, and other side dishes like chips, pão de queijo (cheese bread), and pastéis (deep fried puff pastry with filling).
As well as having coffee celebrated throughout the world for its taste and quality, Brazil also produces one of the most exotic and exclusive coffees on the planet.
For decades it has been hailed as the king of kings. There are many ways to prepare a flavoursome coffee: with filters, electric coffee machines and, more recently, with the domestic expresso machines that use coffee capsules filled with specified portions and flavours. Whether made at home or enjoyed in a café, bar or restaurant, the general consensus is unanimous: coffee is great, and if it’s Brazilian – given its undisputed quality – it’s even greater.
Coffee plays a unique part in many cultures, with an estimated global consumption of half a trillion cups per day. Brazil has been the largest producer and exporter of coffee for more than 100 years and the combined surface area of the country’s plantations is approximately 27,000km². According to production figures reported by the London-based International Coffee Organisation, the major producers of coffee, behind Brazil, are Vietnam (yes, after rice, coffee is the Vietnamese star), Columbia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, India, Honduras, Mexico, Uganda and Guatemala.
The Brazilian harvest is expected to exceed 53 million sacks of coffee in 2016, according to the Associação Brasileira da Indústria de Café (ABIC – Brazilian Coffee Industry Association). The association projects that consumption in Brazil alone could increase to 21.3 million sacks this year, which equates to approximately 173 billion cups! However, the volume of ground roasted coffee being exported is currently in decline owing to a Brazilian law which prohibits the importation of green coffee from other countries.
Meanwhile, in 2015, British company Costa Coffee invested approximately £40 million in the construction of a new roasting plant in Basildon (Essex) to help lighten the load of their other roaster in Lambeth (South London), which was inaugurated more than 30 years ago. With both plants roasting beans, Costa Coffee will produce an impressive 56,000 tons of roasted coffee per year
But coffee beans are not only used to prepare the hot beverage. The caffeine extracted is also used in soft drinks, pharmaceutical products, and even cosmetics. New research in the field of health and wellbeing suggests that the daily consumption of coffee (between three to four cups per day) can actually help in the prevention of certain diseases, such as diabetes in adults, cancer (colon, liver and breast) and Parkinson’s disease, to name just a few.
Brazilian coffee has one particularly interesting variety: the Jacu Bird Coffee. These coffee beans are consumed and excreted by the Jacu, which is a native bird to the Mata Atlântica. Jacu Bird Coffee is expensive, nearly 20 times the price of standard coffee. However, it comes nowhere near the price tag of two other exotic specialities, also produced by the digestive processes of small animals, the Kopi Luwak, from Indonesia, and the Black Ivory, from Thailand, both with prices that exceed €800 per kilo.