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Food of Brazil

Brazil's population is a racial mix of native Indians, Africans, Italians, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese and Asians. This has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.

Table of contents

Brazil's five main cuisine regions:

1. North (Acre, Amazonas, Amap„, Par„, Rondýnia, Roraima, and Tocantins)

Collectively, the region is known as Amazýnia for it includes a large part of the rain forest, and tributaries flowing into the Amazon River. Culturally, the Amazon basin[?] is heavily populated by native Indians or people of mixed Indian and Portuguese ancestry who live on a diet of fish, root vegetables such as manioc, yams, and peanuts, plus palm[?] or tropical fruits[?].

The cuisine of this region is heavily Indian-influenced. One popular dish is Caruru do Par„, a one-pot meal of dried shrimp, okra, onion, tomato, cilantro, and dendÕ oil.

2. Northeast (Alagoas, Bahia, Cear„, Maranh„o, Paražba, Pernambuco, Piauž, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe)

Geographically the region comprises a dry, semi-arid region used for cattle ranches[?] inland from the fertile costal plain, an economically important sugar cane and cacao growing area. The spectacular beaches make the coast Brazil's fastest growing tourist region.

Within the State of Bahia the predominate cuisine is Afro-Bahian, which evolved from plantation cooks improvising on African, Indian, and traditional Portuguese dishes using locally available ingredients.

In the remainder of the coastal plains there is less African influence on the food, but seafood, shellfish, and tropical fruits[?] are menu staples.

Inland, in the arid, drought stricken cattle-growing and farm lands, foods typically include ingredients like dried meat, rice, beans, goat, manioc and corn meal[?].

3. Central-West (Federal District of Brasilia plus Gožas, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul)

A region comprising dry open savannahs or prairies with wooded terrain in the north. The famous Pantanal[?], one of the finest game and fishing regions on earth, is also located in the Central-West region of Brazil.

Fish, beef and pork from the vast ranches of the region dominate the menu, along with harvested crops of soybean, rice, maize, and manioc.

4. Southeast (Espžrito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo)

The Southeast is the industrial heart of Brazil, and is home to several distinctive cooking styles for which Brazil is probably best-known.

In Minas[?] the regional dishes include a lot of maize, pork, beans, and local soft ripened cheeses. Around Rio and Sao Paulo, feijoada completa (a simmered bean and meat dish of Bahian origin), is popular especially as a Wednesday or Saturday luncheon. Also consumed frequently is arroz-feijao, or rice and beans. Traditionally, black beans are prepared in Rio, red or blonde beans in Sao Paulo, and either black or red in Minas Gerais.

In Sao Paulo, the influence of European and North African immigrants is noticed in the region's cuisine. The majority arrived from Italy, along with many from Portugal and Spain, plus other European and Arab nations.

5. South (Paran„, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina)

To the national cuisine the gaucho[?], or cowboy, contributed dishes made with sun- or salt-dried meats and churrasco, a meal of flame grilled fresh meats.

The European immigrants are accustomed to a wheat-based diet, and introduced wine, leaf vegetables[?], and dairy products into Brazilian cuisine. When potatoes were not available they discovered how to use the native sweet manioc as a replacement.

Staple Ingredients

Beans (feijao)

Beans appear on the table daily in many forms and colors. Some consider the black bean (feijao preto) to be the preferred national bean. It is not uncommon, however, to find dried red, white, brown, and even pink beans in the markets.


An important ingredient throughout the country, coconut is used in soups, cocktails, poultry, fish, and shellfish recipes, as well as desserts and sweets. Various forms are utilized: unripe green coconuts (cŔco verde); ripe yellow or brown coconuts (cýco amarelo); the soft, almost buttery textured meat from green coconuts (cýco de „gua); or grated (cýco ralado).

DendŪ Oil (azeite de dendŪ)

A heavy tropical oil extracted from the African palm[?] growing in Northern Brazil. One of the basic ingredients in Bahian or Afro-Brazilian cuisine, it adds a wonderful flavor and bright orange color to foods. There is no equivalent substitute, but it is available in markets specializing in Brazilian imports.

Dried, salted codfish (bacalhau)

Introduced by the Portuguese, it finds its way into appetizers, soups, main courses, and savory puddings. One common method of refreshing the dreid fish is to soak large pieces with the skin and bone removed in cold water for three to four hours, changing the water every hour.

Dried shrimp (camarao seco)

In various sizes, dried shrimp are utilized in many dishes from the northern regions of the country. Usually obtainable in North America at oriental or Latin food stores. Before use they are covered with cold water and soaked overnight (though unlike the codfish, the shrimp does not require hourly water-changes). The water is discarded before the shrimp are used.

Lemon (limo)

In Brazil the fruit is green, small and quite tart, more like an American lime would appear and taste.

Rice (Brazilian style - arroz brasileiro or arroz simples)

Long grained rice is briefly sauteed in garlic and oil before being boiled. In addition to garlic, some Brazilian cooks add small amounts of onion, diced tomato, or sliced black olive[?] for additional flavor. Properly done, each grain is fluffy and the rice will not stick together.

Making Brazilian-style rice: Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan and saute a clove of garlic. When browned add salt. Add the rice and saute 2 to 3 minutes -- until it looks translucent. Do not allow the grains to brown. Add hot water (about 2 to 2-1/2 cups per cup of rice). Cook, partially covered, over medium-high heat until most of the water is absorbed. Uncover, lower the heat and continue cooking until fluffy.

Toasted Manioc Meal (farofa or farinha de mandioca)

Manioc flour lightly sauteed in butter until it resembles buttered bread crumbs. Other ingredients are frequently added.

Feijoada Completa - the national dish of Brazil

For over 300 years feijoada completa[?], a mixture of black beans, pork and farofa (manioc meal) has been the national dish of Brazil. While it started as an African dish, it has been adopted by all the other cultural regions, and there are hundreds of ways to make it. Visit http://www.brazzil.com/p24nov96.htm for some of the many recipes.

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