Brazil is a country of gigantic proportions, the nation is the third biggest country in the American continent and the fifth biggest country in the world, just losing to United States for a mere block of ice called Alaska. But apart from all the competition in territorial size, Brazilian culture is not something homogenous and neither is its food. Each region has its specificities and preferences when it comes to dishes.
Brazilian southeast is not nationally known by its special dishes, but they have quite good ones.
In Rio de Janeiro, the most famous dish is the Feijoada, regardless of the age or the location, feijoada is the most famous Brazilian dish you will ever find. The dish is basically a mix of black beans boiled with pork meat, like ears, tails besides the chorizo and jerked beef. Sometimes the cook serves it with kale and rice. It is believed that feijoada was invented by slaves, that made their meals with food wasted by their slave master. Reason why the they use some peculiar parts of the pig in the real feijoada. After some gourmet touch in the dish they started using other meats to make the dish, but the original one is this one above.
In Espirito Santo, they have a dish that is also quite popular in the whole country. The dish is called Moqueca or moqueca capixaba, the dish is boiled fish with veggies and seafood. It can be made with different kind of fish, as Badejo, cação or dourado. The dish is usually served with rice and pirão.
In Minas Gerais they have the famous pão de queijo, which is in my opinion the most delicious dish ever made. It literally translates as cheese bread, and even that it has bread in the name, they don’t use wheat flour in it, they use manioc flour. The reason why they use a different ingredient is that the dish was made when they were searching for wheat flour replacements, since they had a shortage of it in the country by the time it was made.
In the other hand, Northeast is quite popular by its spicy foods.
They have the jerked beef, which is called “sun meat” or “dried meat” and it has this name because in the traditional north-eastern kitchen, the meat was dried under the sun at the very moment they were salting it. Nowadays they don’t dry the meat under the sun anymore. They usually serve it with fried manioc, curd cheese and green beans (feijão verde).
They also have acarajé, which is a typical dish from Bahia made by the very sympathetic baianas in their stands right on the street. It is another Brazilian food with African heritage. Acarajé is a small bean bread fried in oil palm and stuffed with vatapá, dried shrimp and vinaigrette, besides of course a very strong pepper. Careful with this last one, because the other Brazilians that are not from Bahia find this dish extremely spicy. When they ask you if you want your acarajé hot or cold, bear in mind that hot means spicy and not the temperature of the recipe. If you’re not used to spicy food, run away from it.
Tapioca is also another easy dish very popular all around the country, it has native Americans roots. It looks like a taco but made with a special manioc flour. It became very popular recently since it’s a good replacement for bread, awesome for those who are gluten intolerant. Its versatility also helped to make it popular, since you can stuff it with salty and sweet food, and you can also make some pancakes by mixing it with eggs.
Another region that has some very special dishes is the North, mainly due to the amazon region.
In Pará they have a very popular dish called Duck in the Tucupi, which is a roasted duck with a sauce made with Tucupi, that is a yellow liquid extracted from the root the mandioca brava (a kind of manioc). It is originally a native American recipe, where they used tucupi to make wild ducks, roasting them in rock cookers. A curiosity about this dish, is that Tucupi is initially poisonous, it has to be boiled slowly for many hours to lose all its cyanuric acid.
Another dish from the north is the Tacacá, also from native American origin. It is also made using tucupi and manioc. The dish is served hot and also has dried shrimp and jambu, an amazon leaf that can cause some tingling in the mouth.
Another very popular dish in all over brazil is the açaí, it’s very easy to find stands everywhere selling the fruit in something that would resembles an ice-cream. In the rest of brazil apart from the north, it is blended with guarana, banana and strawberry.
South is popular by its meats.
One of the most popular in Rio Grande do Sul is maybe the barbecue. Everyone has already heard of the gaucho barbecue. And they are expert when it comes to make meat. The traditional barbecue is made digging a whole in the floor, suspending the meat over the fire.
Tainha is a typical Brazilian fish that can be found in other regions of the country as well, but this preparation way is specific to Rio Grande do Sul. It is one of the most sold fish in the Fish Fair that usually happens from time to time in Porto Alegre. The dish consists of a mullet that is roasted in the firewood, caught between the bamboo of taquara that is made of skewer. It is seasoned with garlic, olive oil, butter, finger pepper and lemon. It is suggested that the dish be accompanied by white rice and a good dry white wine.
When it comes to desserts, Brazilians can also be very creative, but they love sugary desserts, so if you’re not into very sweet dessert, run away from them. But I assure you, they are worthy it.
Condensed pudding is one of most loved desserts in Brazil. It consists of a mixture of condensed milk, eggs and sugar basically, giving it a rather creamy, yet firm texture. It is inspired by Portuguese candy recipes, but it has a simpler execution, which makes it faster and easier to make, even if it is sweeter.
It can be said that brigadeiro is the most unanimous dessert in all Brazil. There is no region where it is not present, whether at a child's birthday or even at weddings. The brigadeiro has already become a tradition on festive dates and even outside of them. The brigadeiro is a typical Brazilian candy, invented in Brazil, without external interference. It consists of a blend of condensed milk, butter, cocoa powder and granulated chocolate for the topping. It has this name because it was created with the intention of being served at events to raise funds for the candidacy of Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes. Being here, "Brigadier" (brigadeiro) in the sense of the highest aeronautical patent. With the success of the candy, it turned out to be the candy of the brigadeiro, that evolved only for brigadier.
Cocada is an African candy, but largely produced here in Brazil. It was brought and made famous by the slaves, who had more than enough ingredients, since many worked in fields of sugar cane. Their recipe has been modified, until we arrive at the cocada as we know it today.
Even though some of those foods are sold in other countries in Brazilian restaurants, they are not the same as eating them in Brazil, since we have the local products to make all of them. When coming to Brazil don’t forget to try some of these.