In recent weeks, soccer has been sweeping not only our nation, but the entire world thanks to the FIFA World Cup. We rooted on our beloved United States Men’s Nation Team (USMNT) while they tackled the “group of death” and moved onto the second stage. Just as it seemed the odds had been defied, the USMNT unfortunately fell to Belgium in the first game in the round of 16. After boycotting waffles the day following the loss, we decided it would be interesting to look at the native eats of the host country and one of four teams still contending in the tournament, Brazil. Now in the semi-finals, Brazil will take on Germany while Argentina faces off against the Netherlands in the fight to take home the trophy in the most widely viewed sporting event in the world.
Brazil’s Culinary Offerings
As the host country of this year’s World Cup, Brazil packed some local flavor into the concession menus. The menu, which features different barbecued meats, Tropeiro Beans, and Guava Cake, gives just a small sampling of the culinary creations the country has to offer. Outside of the stadiums a wide variety of foods can be found, typically depending on the region and its inhabitants. However, as the world leader in dry beans production, it comes as no surprise rice and beans is one of the most common dishes for Brazilians in each region. Let’s start from the top.
The northern areas of Brazil are heavily influenced by the indigenous population. Foods have much remained the same since before the 1600s, when the Portuguese arrived. A staple in the diets of North Brazil is manioc (man-ee-ok), a root vegetable often processed to make flour. Manioc flour is eaten fried, toasted or in dishes with other ingredients such as fish or meat stock and even used to make crackers and breads. While manioc is found in the majority of dishes, the most notable food from this region is likely the acai (ah-sah-ee) berry. The small fruit has been deemed a “superfood” and can be commonly found as a flavor for juices, smoothies, and yogurts or eaten on its own.
In Brazil’s Northeast region the cuisine is heavily African influenced. The influence dates back to the 1500s, when the sugarcane plantation slaves were brought to the country and carried with them their native tastes and traditions. Many of the dishes in this coastal region contain seafood, with the most widely known being a dish called moqueca (mo-keh-ka). Moqueca, which means “stew”, can be served in a number of different ways. Typically, this dish calls for salt water fish to be stewed in coconut milk, another staple in recipes from this area. Dishes from this region are usually those found on menus of Brazilian inspired restaurants around the world and are considered to be some of the most commonly eaten outside of their native country.
Although food from the northeast region can be found on menus abroad, it goes without saying that meat cooked churrasco style may be the most popular representation of Brazil’s cuisine to non-natives. Churrasco refers to grilled meat and is the basis behind the churrascaria, or a restaurant serving grilled meat. These establishments are typically all-you-can-eat, where servers walk around slicing meat onto guests’ plates from large skewers. Red meat is common in this area due to heavy European immigration and a long standing tradition in livestock production. Chances are if you have eaten at a steakhouse, you have had a dish inspired by South Brazil.
The southeast region is home to some of the largest cities in Brazil, but isn’t largely known for its unique tastes. This area is widely industrialized and has welcomed immigrants from different parts of the world, which is reflected in the tastes of the cuisine. Food found here has an international flavor, not typically found in other parts of the country. It is not uncommon to find pizza, sushi, pastas and other popular foods across the world in southeast Brazil.
Although the majority of food in this area did not originate in Brazil, traditional Brazilian dishes can still be found. You can find the national dish, feijoada (fey-jwah-duh), a bean stew, at most any restaurant. Each chef puts their own twist on the dish and each region attempts to claim feijoada as its own. In Brazil’s Southeast region, black beans are most commonly used. Another popular dish is moqueca capixaba. This differs from the moqueca found to the north because it is made in a clay pan with olive oil, instead of palm oil.
Overall, Brazil has a very interesting and eclectic food scene, with a number of different influences. Each part of the country has been uniquely inspired and takes pride in the special tastes that can be found there. Have you tried any Brazilian dishes? Are there any you would like to try? Leave a comment and let us know!