As South America’s largest country, Brazil is a huge place with a fabulously diverse cuisine. The country’s food draws on influences from a variety of cultures, including the Portuguese, Spanish, Italians, Japanese and Africa, conjuring up a wonderful culinary journey that you can go on when you’re there.
One of the most popular Brazilian exports to the UK is the rodizio concept, which is big in the south of Brazil. This part of the country has a high concentration of cattle ranches, so the diet here is meat-heavy. Waiters bring round cuts of different meats for you to try, and slice you off a piece at your table.
The central region of Brazil’s known for its use of pork, beef, soy beans and manioc, while in the north seafood and tropical fruits take centre stage. The açai berry grows in abundance in the north, a superfood which is commonly eaten with granola at breakfast for a healthy start to the day. Root vegetables are popular across the country for their high concentration of carbohydrates, while fruits like guava, mango, orange, papaya, passion fruit and pineapple are used a lot too.
Brazil’s national dish is undoubtedly feijoada, a black bean stew which has a range of influences. Originally made from leftover parts of pig such as the ears, feet and tail, the modern dish is a bit more refined, and served with less daring kinds of pork along with rice, sliced orange and shredded greens.
If you love to feast on questionable cuts of meat, don’t miss buchada, which is a speciality of the country’s northeastern interior region. A relative of Scottish staple haggis, a goat’s stomach is opened up and stuffed with offal such as heart, intestines, liver and lung, before being closed back up and cooked.
A dish that the northeastern state of Bahia and neighbouring Espírito Santo both lay claim to creating is moqueca, a tasty fish stew which is usually served in a clay pot. If you’re in a romantic mood go for a Romeu e Julieta, an unusual concoction that’s basically a guava paste and white cheese finger sandwich.
If you want to eat something a bit more basic keep a lookout for misto quente, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, or try a bauru, the Brazilian take on a roast beef sandwich. If you’re on the lookout for a big, hearty steak, go for a cut of barbecued picanha. Part of the rump, it’s Brazil’s most popular cut of steak.
Local markets are a real feature of Brazilian life, where the natives go to pick up their fresh produce. Likewise, street food is a popular way to grab a bite on the go, with things such as coxinhas, which are fried balls of chicken and cheese, pão de queijo, little rolls of bread with cheese baked in, and empadinhas – Brazil’s take on the empanada – all great for a quick snack. Skewered chicken hearts, coração de frango, are also found across the country, and may be barbecued, simply seasoned or marinated in garlic, red wine and herbs.
At the end of dinner, gorge on sweet and delicious brigadeiros, which are Brazilian chocolate truffles made with condensed milk and cocoa powder. Then, sip on a cup of local coffee before trying out some cachaça. A spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice, cachaça is the star of the infamous caipirinha cocktail, giving you the perfect way to round off a traditional Brazilian meal.