South America Cruise Food Guide: Cuisines of Brazil
Discover South America Cruise Food Guide: Cuisines of Brazil. If you’ve been to an all-you-can-eat rodizio than you’ve eaten Brazilian food. But no matter how much you ate, you were sampling the very beginning of Brazilian gastronomy. It’s possible that Brazil is the most gastronomically diverse country in South America. This is due to the multitude of races and nationalities that populated this very expansive country. And also to the country’s vast agricultural and fishing resources. If you look around in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, you’ll be able to find restaurants specializing in regional fare. Just like you’ll be able to find international restaurants serving everything. From French to Chinese to burgers and fries. Yet, anyone lucky enough to travel to different Brazilian states and regions will discover a world of new recipes, ingredients and flavor profiles.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio, similar to Sao Paulo, has a mixed bag when it comes to cuisine. That’s because people from all over the country live in the city. And they bring their cuisine with them. Thus, typical Brazilian restaurants in Rio might serve anything. From feijoada (a northern cuisine) to dried meat and four kinds of starch served pay-by-the-pound cafeteria-style. To fresh seafood and salads to the churrasco rodizio. The latter is the all-you-can-eat meat extravaganza that’s been a big hit in the States. And which visitors associate with Rio even though it’s from the South.
Botequim = Pub
First of all, there are only two restaurants concepts that really originate in Rio. One being the all-you-can-eat rodizio that is NOT steak but might be pizza, fish or pasta. The other concept that truly perfected in Rio is the botequim. Think of it as a pub, which basically offers countless little bar bite options meant to go with alcohol. This is Brazil’s answer to tapas. It is very common for people to meet up at night, and not have proper dinner at all. But instead share several of these little bar snacks with drinks while watching a game or before going dancing..
The food of Bahia is spicy, rich and colorful. This state has the most African influence in the entire country. Thus, a lot of regional dishes have a peppery coconut milk and palm oil base. Also, Bahia is a coastal state, so there are a lot of fish dishes. One regional specialty that combines all these elements is vatapá. Made of bread soaked in coconut peanut curry with shrimp or cod. Many restaurants also serve the more traditional version of feijoada. Which is not for timid eaters, as it includes every conceivable part of the pig, from nose to tail. The quintessential Bahian street food is acarajé. It is a large mashed bean fritter. It is stuffed with spicy pepper sauce and shrimp or fish and fried in red palm oil. Sometimes the fritters are used to sandwich bread. Sliced open and stuffed with various kind of filling.
Street Food in Bahia
In kiosks and food carts around Bahia, you find vendors that come out in bright traditional garb. They bear baskets of fresh-made acarajé and other street foods.
They go down the street calling out the dish and people flock to them. It is not uncommon to see people stuffing their faces on Bahian street food with tears flowing out of their eyes. That’s because it’s so spicy they can’t handle it. But it’s too good to stop eating.
While you can actually get pizza or a burger in certain Amazon cities. Certainly Manaus, but also many of the cruise ports—that is the last thing you should order if you’re ever in the Amazon. The local chefs are expert in cooking ingredients that come from their immediate area. Some of which you’ve probably never heard of before. Other ingredients, like wild boar and organic greens, are universal. But more delicious for having been naturally raised right on the river banks. Chefs prepare the fruits, vegetables, grains and fish that are native to this vast region. And they do it with simple, proven expertise that showcases the ingredients.
The Amazon rainforest produces an incredible cornucopia of unique fruits and vegetables. Some of which, like the acai berry and caju fruit, are enjoyed all over Brazil. Other crops, like the buruti fruit, are hard to find outside the region. So definitely enjoy them when you can get them! Likewise with the river fish, which are peculiar-looking. They are often enormous creatures generally only seen on fishing shows. But are delicious and healthy on the plate. The most popular is the pirarucu. It is commonly compared to that Portuguese staple, salt cod. The tambaqui, a cousin of the piranha, is often served barbecued. And it grows big enough so that its ribs alone are a popular specialty.
Rio Grande do Sul
Brazil’s cowboy country specializes in every cut of beef. Starting with picanha (prime sirloin). The churrascarias of Rio Grande do Sul sometimes serve nothing but beef and a few fowl options. In fact, many display cattle butchering charts in their décor. That’s so people can identify all the cuts of meat they are being served. But, the rodizio concept in certain parts of the state has overlapped with Swiss immigrant influence. It is a pleasant surprise to discover towns like Gramado have as many all-you-can-eat fondue restaurants as steakhouses. Chocolate and wine are also both produced and eaten in quantity. Which makes this Brazilian state a red-blooded American’s culinary dream come true. Ironically, this state also produces the most super-models of anywhere in Brazil. Making you wonder whether the locals have some sort of superhuman metabolism.
Looking for a different type of adventure? Discover why Maui is Magic!