Blessed with its beauty is the Copacabana Beach in Brazil. It boasts over 4km of white sand, stunning crystal blue water and has an abundance of passion fruit and water melon. Mother Nature is at its best here and the beach itself is a paradise; it is completely mesmerising. The beautifully carved statue of Christ the Redeemer also looks over the city. Fish are religious symbols here: in the Catholic religion, the fish symbolises Jesus Christ. On most Fridays, the Bahian fish is served in Brazilian households. The carnival of Rio de Janeiro celebrates the resurrection of Christ with sultry exotic dancers, alcohol, music and flavoursome foods. Brazil is well and truly a country of colour, movement and indulgence.
Brazil’s cuisine has been massively influenced through the movement of immigration to the country, in which over six million people settled in Brazil from Africa, India, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Syria and Lebanon. In what can only be seen as an opportunity, the collision of different cuisines left behind an infusion of tasty, heartfelt food. There are now so many dishes that are unique, healthy, full of flavour and life in Brazil.
Having recently visited Fazenda, a Brazilian meat buffet in Leeds, I was pleasantly surprised by the unique dining experience and just how juicy and tasteful the cuts of meat were. The gaucho chefs grilled meat on a rotary, making the soft meat taste divine and magically producing well-done to rare pieces of steak on one skewer. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs when we struggled to catch up, trying all the meats one after the other. After only one sitting of the finest rump, filet, rib eye and gammon, I felt we had visited all four regions of Brazil at once, and were beginning to look quite beastly ourselves.
The northern regions of Brazil, such as Tocantins and Amapá, are surrounded by beautiful and natural flowing waters such as the Oiapoque River and the Roncadeira Waterfall. These enable tropical fruits to grow and fish to live. Vatapá is a common dish in this region as it’s filling and nutritious. It’s a combination of bread, shrimp, red pepper, ginger, peanuts, coconut milk, palm oil and onions. The sweet and pungent flavours are finished off with a hint of spice.
With temperatures set at an average of 25°, North East Brazil is a hot semi-arid region where rain falls once in a blue moon, but with the Atlantic Ocean being on the border, the majority of the dishes are made with seafood, shellfish and tropical fruits. It is also a great sugar cane and cacao growing area. The state of Bahia cooks in the style of Afro-Bahian cuisine, adding to traditional African dishes with local ingredients. If a drought was to occur, the dried meats would be used and cooked with rice and beans.
The West offers a bit of everything: you name it, it has it. Pantanal is one of the finest game and fishing regions around, and its ecosystem is home to an astonishing 1,000 birds, 400 fish, 300 mammals, 480 reptiles and over 9,000 different subspecies of invertebrates. It also has savannahs, which are ideal for cattle raising. Agricultural crops also flourish here, as the woodland’s soil is moist and full of minerals.
Looking at the national cuisine of the Gaucho (the cowboy), many dishes are made through the process of sun and salt-dried meats in addition to the beloved churrasco, which is essentially the process of wood-firing meat for its smoky flavour. This is probably the most common food in Brazil, and fast food chains like Burger King have also adopted a similar style to grill their own burgers.
Again, and in terms of Rio de Janeiro, the South West base a great deal of their dishes on beans and rice. Here they vary their ingredients with black, red or blond beans. Regional dishes use a great deal of corn and pork as well as local soft ripened cheese such as Queijo coalho, well known for its “squeaky” texture.
If you have not been to a Brazilian steakhouse yet, you must treat yourself to the divine flavours that melt in your mouth, accompanied by refreshing fruits (my advice would be to choose pineapple!), and enjoy the moment. It is a truly guilt free pleasure.