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Brazil, Its Food and Drinks, Are All Acquired Tastes

Friends sharing a Brazilian caipirinha

Friends sharing a Brazilian caipirinhaBefore arriving in Brazil I was given a cookbook on Brazil’s cuisine from my brother. Dave (my fiancé) and I had taken a look at it before we came here and were not impressed to say the least: a lot of fish, meat and black beans with bland sounding accompaniments. 

Fortunately, I am completely over the moon about the food. I can’t believe how many choices there are, not to mention the freshness! You can go to any restaurant or barraca (beach shack) and taste some of the best food Brazil has to offer.

Let’s start with the rodí­zio; you sit down at a big table with an army of a buffet in front of you with salad, beans, sushi (at times), olives, bread etc. One go around and you are already full, I had actually thought that was the meal.  

When the servers came by with little disks, green on one side, red on the other, I knew we were in store for something amazing. Each server has a piece of meat on a large skewer that they pass around from person to person at the table.

You can either say yes or no, or just use the disk; green for go, red for stop. Every piece of meat is passed around, parts I didn’t even know existed and it’s truly unbelievable.  

Our favorite is the picanha, which is literally the tenderest meat we’ve ever had. It is a Brazilian specialty cut from the rump roast and marinated in salt and garlic. My other favorite is the chicken thighs that are cooked with a splash of garlic and oil. I have yet to find a rodí­zio that is less than perfection.  

My other favorite add on is farofa, which was new to me when I came here. It’s made with manioc (cassava or manioc) flour and sausage or other meats. It adds a little salty, breadcrumb kick to the meal. By the time you flip your disk to red you’ve gained 5 pounds, but it’s well worth it.

In NY they have the Churrascaria Plataforma that is going up in price by the month. Last I heard it was US$ 44 a plate plus drinks. At these rodí­zios in Brazil, you can find them as cheap as US$ 6 a person all you can eat, not to mention the US$ 1 caiprinhas which are a must have!

Let’s now move to the most delicious drink of Brazil, the caiprinha. I was introduced to these by a Brazilian sushi restaurant called Sushi Samba in NY. What I didn’t know was how strong and powerful these little drinks are.

I used to down two of them within a half an hour. When I couldn’t walk straight out of the restaurant, I did some research. Cachaça (which is the alcohol and only liquid other than ice in the drink) is made from sugar cane alcohol.

The drink is prepared by crushing cachaça, lime and sugar with a faux motor and pestle. The result: a tangy, tart drink that can make your mouth water just at the sight of it. Since there is sugar alcohol and sugar in the drink, it can double as a drug. I drank 4 of these one night and before I knew it, it was 5am. That’s Brazil for you.

One of my other new favorites is açaí­. It’s made from a nutritional Amazonian berry with guaraná powder/syrup. You have to drink with caution because guaraná (natural caffeine and sweetener) has recently been banned in the States due to the similarities to ephedrine (speed).

Açaí­ is an interesting looking, thick dark purple gritty drink. It’s one of those acquired tastes and now I’m hooked! My new favorite ritual is stopping for one of these special treats each morning during "walk hour" in Fortaleza.

There are many more foods and drinks to rave about, and I’m still getting to know the food. Amazingly, I’ve actually lost weight. Bye bye processed foods of the States!

Jessie Simon recently moved, with her fiancé, from New York City to Fortaleza to start a kiteboarding company called Kite Adventures – www.kiteadventures.com – that specializes in guided kiteboarding tours around the Northeast of Brazil. She can be contacted at jessie@kiteadventures.com.

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  • Show Comments (7)

  • jose

    you’re gay
    who ever wrote the last comment is really stupid and should read a boo if she wants to learn about food or go eat some food

  • juan

    this is gay
    yall need to put more information on this website about food and religion of this country Brazil

  • maggie

    Cupuacu at Churrascaria Plataforma
    At Churrascaria Plataforma in NYC you can find desserts made of Cupuacu, delicious! Better yet, according to the Today Show this morning Cupuacu is extremely healthy. in NYC

  • Guest

    I had not heard of gurana being banned in the U.S. Maybe this is a New York thing – Eliot Spitzer protecting New Yorkers from themselves! I guess when I visited Brazil I didn’t know to ask for the gurana powder with my acai. The canned Antartica certainly didn’t do much for me, but I TOLD myself it was giving me a lift!

    As to acai, here’s a hint for Americans missing this treat – it’s available, frozen, under the “Sambazon” brand, at Whole Foods Market. I’m sure the price is hugely inflated (as is the paltry quantity of cachaca available here), but at least you are (aparently) getting the genuine article. My understanding is that this is how (a frozen pulp, that is) it is supplied to the stands in Brazil. It’s the only practical way to transport the stuff. I think there is a problem with freshness otherwise – that is, I gather that the fresh juice does not keep well.

    Cachaca is distilled, so despite it’s source, it does NOT have a high sugar content. The typical recipie for a caiprinha is another story, though. The “official” recipie calls for 2 tablespoons of sugar, though I suspect this is on the low side for the typical drink. I make them at home with 1 – sometimes I sneak in 1 1/2, and it’s still plenty of sugar. I suppose I do not make them like in Brazil, as I don’t have the patience to grind and grind and grind the sugar and lime. So, there is always quite a bit of undisolved sugar in the bottom. (I use demerara sugar, which has large, hard to disolve crystals.) The effect is somewhat like what you get from a mint julep – a slush of sugar at the bottom of the glass, that you can selectively dive for with your straw. With the mint julep this is quite intentional – there is SUPPOSED to be this slush left when you are done with your drink. (I read recently that children in the U.S. south would then be allowed to drink that last little bit, which was too sweet for the adults. Being a prudish northerner, this both surprised and shocked me. 🙂 )

  • Guest

    It is so funny that you mention that you lost weigint. I usually go to brasil for 2 weeks at a time and i always eat like a pig, but always end up losing weight. You are so right about American Process foods and high fructose corn syrup sweetened drinks.

  • Guest

    depending on the region
    Churrasco and Feijoada is something you can find everywhere, from north to south in Brazil, but each region, sometimes each state has its own especiality!

    In the North we have pato no tucupi, which is duck (pato) meat cooked/boiled in tucupi (tucupi is the liquid extracted in the process of preparing the manioc flour mentioned in the article), it`s a little acid but deliciuous!

    In the north there is also a fish called pirarucu and tambaqui, many dishes are made with these fishes. And there are some fruits only found in the North of Brazil, like cupuacu.

  • Guest

    Something new
    I’ve heard about the churrasquerias and the caipirinhas. But it seems everyone always points to these first. I’m sure there are other interesting foods in Brazil aside from these. Anyone care to share? And yes, we’ve heard about feijoada too. Someone please teach us about other Brazilian foods.

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