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Brazilian cuisine is the set of cooking practices and traditions of Brazil, and is characterized by European, Amerindian, African, and most recently Asian (mostly Japanese) influences. It varies greatly by region, reflecting the country's mix of native and immigrant populations, and its continental size as well. This has created a national cuisine marked by the preservation of regional differences.
Ingredients first used by native peoples in Brazil include cashews, cassava, guaraná, açaí, cumaru, and tucupi. From there, the many waves of immigrants brought some of their typical dishes, replacing missing ingredients with local equivalents. For instance, the European immigrants (primarily from Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, and Ukraine), were accustomed to a wheat-based diet, and introduced wine, leafy vegetables, and dairy products into Brazilian cuisine. When potatoes were not available, they discovered how to use the native sweet manioc as a replacement. Enslaved Africans also had a role in developing Brazilian cuisine, especially in the coastal states. The foreign influence extended to later migratory waves, Japanese immigrants brought most of the food items that Brazilians would associate with Asian cuisine today, and introduced large-scale aviaries, well into the 20th century.
The most visible regional cuisines belong to the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia. Minas Gerais cuisine have European influence in delicacies and dairy products such as tropeiro beans, pão de queijo and the Minas cheese fresh, and Bahian cuisine due to the presence of African delicacies such as acarajé, abará and vatapá.
Root vegetables such as manioc (locally known as mandioca, aipim or macaxeira, among other names), yams, and fruit like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, and hog plum are among the local ingredients used in cooking.
Some typical dishes are feijoada, considered the country's national dish, and regional foods such as beiju, feijão tropeiro, vatapá, moqueca capixaba, polenta (from Italian cuisine) and acarajé (from African cuisine). There is also caruru, which consists of okra, onion, dried shrimp, and toasted nuts (peanuts or cashews), cooked with palm oil until a spread-like consistency is reached; moqueca baiana, consisting of slow-cooked fish in palm oil and coconut milk, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic and topped with cilantro.
The national beverage is coffee, while cachaça is Brazil's native liquor. Cachaça is distilled from fermented sugar cane must, and is the main ingredient in the national cocktail, caipirinha.
Cheese buns (pão-de-queijo), and salgadinhos such as pastéis, coxinhas, risólis and kibbeh (from Arabic cuisine) are common finger food items, while cuscuz de tapioca (milled tapioca) is a popular dessert.
There is not an exact single "national Brazilian cuisine", but there is an assortment of various regional traditions and typical dishes. This diversity is linked to the origins of the people inhabiting each area.
For instance, the cuisine of Bahia is heavily influenced by a mix of African, Indigenous, and Portuguese cuisines. Chili (including chili sauces) and palm oil are very common. In the northern states, however, due to the abundance of forest and freshwater rivers, fish, fruits and cassava (including flours made of cassava) are staple foods. In the deep south, as in Rio Grande do Sul, the influence shifts more towards gaúcho traditions shared with its neighbors Argentina and Uruguay, with many meat-based products, due to this region's livestock-based economy; the churrasco, a kind of barbecue, is a local tradition.
In Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Espírito Santo, and Minas Gerais, feijoada is popular, especially as a Wednesday or Saturday lunch. Also consumed frequently is picadinho (literally, diced meat) and rice and beans.In Rio de Janeiro, besides the feijoada, a popular plate is any variation of grilled beef fillet, rice and beans, farofa, fried garlic and fried potatoes (batatas portuguesas), commonly called filé à Osvaldo Aranha. Seafood is very popular in coastal areas, as is roasted chicken (galeto). The strong Portuguese heritage also endowed the city with a taste for bolinhos de bacalhau (fried cod fritters), being one of the most common street foods there.
In São Paulo, a typical dish is virado à paulista, made with rice, virado de feijão (similar to a tutu), sauteed kale, fried plantains or bananas and pork chops. São Paulo is also the home of pastel, a food consisting of thin pastry envelopes wrapped around assorted fillings, then deep-fried in vegetable oil. It is a common belief that they originated when Japanese immigrants adapted the recipe of fried spring rolls to sell as snacks at weekly street markets. São Paulo is also known for parmegianna.
In Minas Gerais, the regional dishes include corn, pork, beans, chicken (including the very typical dish frango com quiabo, or chicken with okra), tutu de feijão (puréed beans mixed with cassava flour), and local soft-ripened traditional cheeses.
In Espírito Santo, there is significant Italian and German influence in local dishes, both savory and sweet. The state dish, though, is of Amerindian origin, called moqueca capixaba, which is a tomato and fish stew traditionally prepared in a panela de Goiabeiras (pot made of clay from Goiabeiras district in Vitória). Amerindian and Italian cuisine are the two main pillars of Capixaba cuisine. Seafood dishes, in general, are very popular in Espírito Santo, but unlike other Amerindian dishes, the use of olive oil is almost mandatory. Bobó de camarão, torta capixaba, and polenta are also very popular.
The cuisine of this region, which includes the states of Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins, is heavily influenced by indigenous cuisine. In the state of Pará, there are several typical dishes, including:
Pato no tucupi (duck in tucupi) – one of the most famous dishes from Pará. It is associated to the Círio de Nazaré, a great local Roman Catholic celebration. The dish is made with tucupi (yellow broth extracted from cassava, after the fermentation process of the broth remained after the starch had been taken off, from the raw ground manioc root, pressed by a cloth, with some water; if added maniva, the manioc ground up external part, that is poisonous because of the cyanic acid, and so must be cooked for several days). After cooking, the duck is cut into pieces and boiled in tucupi, where is the sauce for some time. The jambu is boiled in water with salt, drained, and put on the duck. It is served with white rice and manioc flour and corn tortillas.
In Goiás State, the pequi is used in many typical foods, especially the "arroz com pequi" (rice cooked with pequi), and in snacks, mostly as a filling for pastel, in this state is very common the presence of chestnuts, and palm trees. Also, a mixture of chicken and rice known as galinhada is very popular. The states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul received influence from neighboring countries in their cuisine, as well as the Pantanal area and its various rivers and extensive wetlands that cross these two states with a high abundance of fish.
The Northeastern Brazilian cuisine is heavily influenced by African cuisine from the coastal areas of Pernambuco to Bahia, as well as the eating habits of indigenous populations that lived in the region.
The vatapá is a Brazilian dish made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, finely ground peanuts and palm oil mashed into a creamy paste.
The bobó de camarão is a dish made with cassava and shrimp (camarão).
The acarajé is a dish made from peeled black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in dendê (palm oil). Often sold as street food, it is served split in half and then stuffed with vatapá and caruru. Acarajé is typically available outside of the state of Bahia as well, including the markets of Rio de Janeiro.
In other areas, more to the west or away from the coast, the plates are most reminiscent of the indigenous cuisine, with many vegetables being cultivated in the area since before the arrival of the Portuguese. Examples include baião de dois, made with rice and beans, dried meat, butter, queijo coalho and other ingredients. Jaggery is also heavily identified with the Northeast, as it is carne-de-sol, paçoca de pilão, and bolo de rolo.
Tapioca flatbreads or pancakes are also commonly served for breakfast in some states, with a filling of either coconut, cheese or condensed milk, butter, and certain meats. They can also be filled with dessert toppings as well.
In Southern Brazil, due to the long tradition in livestock production and the heavy German immigration, red meat is the basis of the local cuisine.
Besides many of the pasta, sausage and dessert dishes common to continental Europe, churrasco is the term for a barbecue (similar to the Argentine or Uruguayan asado) which originated in southern Brazil. It contains a variety of meats which may be cooked on a purpose-built "churrasqueira", a barbecue grill, often with supports for spits or skewers. Portable "churrasqueiras" are similar to those used to prepare the Argentine and Uruguayan asado, with a grill support, but many Brazilian "churrasqueiras" do not have grills, only the skewers above the embers. The meat may alternatively be cooked on large metal or wood skewers resting on a support or stuck into the ground and roasted with the embers of charcoal (wood may also be used, especially in the State of Rio Grande do Sul).
Since gaúchos were nomadic and lived off the land, they had no way of preserving food, the gauchos would gather together after butchering a cow, and skewer and cook the large portions of meat immediately over a wood-burning fire (not exactly as gauchos also produced charque). The slow-cooked meat basted in its own juices and resulted in tender, flavorful steaks. This style would carry on to inspire many contemporary churrascaria which emulate the cooking style where waiters bring large cuts of roasted meat to diners' tables and carve portions to order.
The chimarrão is the regional beverage, often associated with the gaúcho image.
Brazilian cuisine is recognized around the world for its variety and quality. The city of São Paulo was chosen as the 7th main gastronomic destination in the world, for its recognized restaurants and bars. The Brazilian city is only after of Rome, London, Paris, Dubai, Barcelona and Madrid. It is important to note that the city of São Paulo alone has more than 9,000 restaurants and bars.
Also noteworthy are:
Brazil is a country-continent, its territorial extension causes different cultures and traditions to sprout at the same time, but at opposite points. And when it comes to drinking, history repeats itself. Some Brazilian drinks, alcoholic or not, are known only in their states of origin.
Cachaça is Brazil's native liquor, distilled from sugar cane and it is the main ingredient in the national drink, the Caipirinha. Other drinks include mate tea, chimarrão and tereré (both made up of yerba maté), coffee, fruit juice, beer (mainly Pilsen variety), rum, guaraná and batidas. Guaraná is a caffeinated soft drink made from guaraná seeds and batida is a type of fruit punch.
See also: List of Brazilian sweets and desserts
Brazil has a tradition of manufacturing jams and jellies from fresh tropical fruits, as Brazil is recognized worldwide as a country with great characteristics in food production, being one of the largest food exporters in the world. Brazilians inherited the taste and cultivation of sugar from the Portuguese who immigrated to Brazil. In the kitchens of the sugar farms, the wifes of the farmers taught the subordinates how to properly mix the ingredients. This led to a growth in its commercialization in the Brazilian market, Portuguese recipes spread throughout the Brazilian colony and became part of the colonial food menu.
The Portuguese tradition of producing sweets with eggs and sugar joined the immense variety of Brazilian tropical fruits, which provided an immense menu of delicacies. Brazil has a variety of candies such as brigadeiros (chocolate fudge balls), cocada (a coconut sweet), beijinhos (coconut truffles and clove) and romeu e julieta (cheese with a guava jam known as goiabada).
Peanuts are used to make paçoca, rapadura and pé-de-moleque. Local common fruits like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, cocoa, cashew, guava, orange, passionfruit, pineapple, and hog plum are turned in juices and used to make chocolates, ice pops and ice cream.
¹ Main meals, that are served nearly everywhere, and are eaten in nearly all households above poverty line.
² Secondary meals. People usually have a meal at the tea time, while elevenses and late suppers depend in peculiarities on one's daily routine or certain diets.
A simple and usually inexpensive option, which is also advisable for vegetarians, is comida a quilo or comida por quilo restaurants (literally "food by kilo value"), a buffet where food is paid for by weight. Another common style is the all-you-can-eat restaurant where customers pay a prix fixe. In both types (known collectively as "self-services"), customers usually assemble the dishes of their choice from a large buffet.
Rodízio is a common style of service, in which a prix fixe is paid, and servers circulate with food. This is common in churrascarias, pizzerias and sushi (Japanese cuisine) restaurants, resulting in an all-you-can-eat meat barbecue and pizzas of varied flavours, usually one slice being served at the time.
The regular restaurant where there is a specific price for each meal is called "restaurante à la carte."
Although many traditional dishes are prepared with meat or fish, it is not difficult to live on vegetarian food as well, at least in the mid-sized and larger cities of Brazil. There is a rich supply of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and on city streets one can find cheese buns (pão de queijo); in some cities even the version made of soy.
In the 2000s, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre have gained several vegetarian and vegan restaurants. However outside big metropolises, vegetarianism is not very common in the country. Not every restaurant will provide vegetarian dishes and some seemingly vegetarian meals may turn out to include unwanted ingredients, for instance, using lard for cooking beans. Commonly "meat" is understood to mean "red meat", so some people might assume a vegetarian eats fish and chicken. Comida por quilo and all-you-can eat restaurants prepare a wide range of fresh dishes. Diners can more easily find food in such restaurants that satisfies dietary restrictions.