“But what did you eat?” That seems to be the question that I was asked most when I came back from Brazil. I will admit that I did not spend my time going to fancy restaurants, and I did not seek to find the “most traditional” dishes that have a history all in their own. Instead, I ate when I was hungry at the place that seemed to be closest or cheapest. And man, it was good.
Usually for breakfast I had some kind of appetizing fried bread with meat and cheese. Below is an example of one breakfast I had. Mmmm. I did love that in their coffee they put cinnamon. I had never tried it back home since I am usually sick of cinnamon being in everything but this was one usage I actually enjoyed. Also, any time of day you can stop at a corner restaurant and grab fresh fruit juice. My favorite was maracujá, or passion fruit. There is also açaí which you have probably heard about in health food magazines because it is rich in antioxidants. It is sold as what looks like a smoothie and I suggest that you ask to have it mixed it another fruit. My usual go-to was with morango, strawberry, or with banana and honey. By itself it is kind of bitter and has an earthy aftertaste. But it is delicious if you mix it with fruit and it is refreshing in the warm Brazilian sun.
I would say that overall my favorite dish that I would get over and over would be feijoada. You might have heard about this before because it is a typical dish in Brazil. I love black beans and rice, which is fundamental for the dish, as well as medley of stewed meats that fall apart in your mouth. It is usually topped with chopped greens and farofa, which helps soak up the stew. Writing about this dish right now makes me ready to go back.
On the streets, especially at night, there are many food vendors that pop up with their carts ready to sell tasty treats on every corner. No matter what your taste buds are craving there is something for you. If you want something salty, for example, there is popcorn cooked with bacon. If you want something sweet there are assortments of candies, corn on the cob or pamonha, and tapioca carts like the one pictured. This was probably one of my favorite things since it was so different from anything I had had before. It is similar to a crepe, but instead of a batter, it looks like coconut shavings. The guy puts a handful of it on a pan and it starts to melt together. On the inside you can decide if you want something savory, like meat and cheese, or if you want something sweet like fruit, chocolate or condensed milk. Then when it’s done, he folds it up and it is time to enjoy. The outside is crispy and the center is so hot that it starts to drip out the ends. Be sure to grab a lot of napkins because it can get messy. Messy and delightful.
Last, but not least, is another staple in Brazil that you will hear about from any travel book or show, the caipirinha. I suggest that you practice saying it a few times before you order one, but don’t worry, once you have one you will be practicing it a lot. I will admit that the first taste might seem a little strange, especially if you haven’t experienced many different kinds of liquor before. But after the third sip I promise you will be hooked. I will warn you to be careful when consuming this drink because it doesn’t taste as strong as it is, which is also half the fun. Below is the recipe that my friend and I learned while in Buzios, from a guy from England who had learned it from our host. Note: This will make two drinks.
3 limes, sliced into wedges
1 tablespoon of sugar, or to taste
a bottle of cachaça
Take the limes, slice them and muddle them in a tall glass or cocktail shaker. Be sure to get as much juice and pulp out. Then add the sugar and continue muddling. Add ice cubes, and be generous. Then pour in the cachaça and shake. Now you are ready to try your caipirinha.