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Brazilian Food: A World Beyond Churrasco

Peixada cearense When folks think of Brazilian food, most probably they picture slabs of beef, chicken and sausage over sizzling coals – the ‘churrasco’ that has become famous via the many Brazilian-themed steakhouses that have spread around the world, including places like Cleveland, New Orleans and Krakow, Poland.

But the truth is that Brazilian food is not only about churrasco. Its cuisine is incredibly diverse, and it varies (like in the US) from region to region.

In the South, you find ‘churrasco’ but also many other dishes inherited and adapted from the European immigrants that came to the region and made it their new home.

In the Southeast, the melting pot is so mixed that foods that originated from countries like Syria, Lebanon, Portugal, Italy and Japan have become so incorporated to the local food culture that people in the region identify them as their own.

In the North and Northeast, African, Dutch, Portuguese and native Brazilian form a unique blend characteristic of this warm, mostly sun-drenched area.

Unfortunately, few Brazilian restaurants (at least in my area) include dishes like moqueca, baião de dois and Ceará-style fish stew on their menus  –  probably because the vast majority of immigrants from Brazil hail from the South and Southeast of the country.

Then there is feijoada, Brazil’s most traditional dish, which is made with black beans and salted (or smoked) pork parts that may include feet, tail and nose. 

As legend has it, farm owners would serve roast pork during parties and then give the less desirable parts to their slaves, who would in turn cook them in a stew with black beans.

Today, feijoada is the country’s signature dish, traditionally served on Saturdays with rice, collard greens and orange on the side. It is a time when families eat at leisure without having to worry about running back to work.

One of my personal traditional favorites is Ceará-style stewed fish (peixada cearense), a delicious combination of seafood and veggies that is served with white rice and pirão, a gravy-like sauce made with yucca flour.

Whenever I prepare this dish, I have fond memories of sitting in my grandmother’s living room and waiting  –  with anticipation  –  for dinner.

Peixada Cearense

Recipe source: Minha Cozinha, translated from the Portuguese by Ernest Barteldes

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 lb. Grouper fillets (or any other firm fish), 1 tbsp. Lime juice, 2 sliced onions, 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced, three ripe tomatoes, quartered, 4 tbsp. cilantro, chopped, 1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and chopped, 1 can coconut milk, three eggs, three large potatoes, two carrots, three thick slices cabbage, 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste.


Boil the eggs, the carrots and potatoes in salted water until vegetables are done. Peel the carrots and potatoes, quarter them and reserve. Peel the eggs, cut in half and reserve.

Wash the fish carefully and season with salt, pepper and lime and reserve. In a large pot, sauté the onions, peppers, cilantro  and tomatoes in olive oil until tender.

Place the fish fillets over the sautéed vegetables and add the coconut milk. Simmer gently (do not stir) until fish is done (about 10 minutes), and add the potatoes, carrots, eggs and cabbage and simmer for another 5-7 minutes.

Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve over white rice.

Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com.


  • Show Comments (5)

  • Zach

    Chow down but do it modern
    Yeah it can be full of fat and salt but you can find healthier alternatives.

    I found a recipe here for a good feijoada with a vegetarian varient http://www.liveinbrazil.org/brazilian-food-recipe-feijoada/

  • steven

    I’m Brazilian American and I can definitely say the Brazilian pallet is better. You can’t really say the Brazilian pallet is boring. Saying that is very close minded because there is not one Brazilian pallet. There are many foods in the North that we have never even heard of in Rio. It’s not as much like that in the united states. But I’m not gonna lie, I love Brazil. And in terms of ego Americans have no room to talk (and I’m American)

  • Slava

    oh, lordy
    Any food properly prepared is delicious and healthy.European included.You Brazilians just cant get over yourselves and your over-inflated, self-serving egos. ”Oh, ah, our women are so breathtaking!”, ”my, oh, my, our food is soooo healthy” ”Gringos are so fat and ugly”, ” our s**t is so fragnant!” The guy simply lays some questionable statistics and you get all pi$$y. Well, here’s news for you, you arent any better-and that goes for your women,food,nature etc-than anyone else.And Brazil would be even greater place, if her deluded people werent always on how great this country actually,ferking is.

  • Leo Boneville

    Conrand Black is a Effing Idiot..
    No cuisine uses more fat (butter) than the European Union with maybe the exception of the United States, most sauces are fat based, most dishes are cheese based.. Get your facts straight.. As far as having an overweight population, look in the mirror fatty.. I noticed you commented on the women’s statistics because you’re probably a fat, disgusting gringo who would love to conquer one of our beautiful women but can’t cause you’re too ugly and sick looking.

    Brazilian food when made properly is delicious and healthy for all of those who chose to partake of it, much healthier than most Western Countries!

    Leo Bone

  • Conrad Black

    Oh Really
    The Cuisine is still boring with little innovation, loaded with salt and fats. Now 48 % of Brazilian females are overweight and 8 % obese.
    Comments from a world Master Chef.. But Chow Down and Tuck In

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