The Caipirinha is Brazil’s national drink and the combination of simple ingredients – cachaça (sugar cane rum), sugar, and lime – belie the powerful smack it can deliver to a ‘unseasoned’ consumer. But Brazil food and drink offers so much more than this well-known cocktail. Brazil is also home to the elusive white cacao, Acai berry and cashew fruit – all of which show up in just about any meal during the day.
To experience the fascinating food culture of Brazil, rise early and head straight to a lanchonete, a typical deli/coffee shop offering traditional “cafezinho.” Brazilians take coffee seriously, so whenever you’re offered a cafezinho accept gracefully. In the family of espresso, it’s made by dissolving sugar in very hot water and stirring in fresh coffee grounds. This mixture is then strained and served in small cups.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, order an all-natural juice to accompany your Pão de queijo or cheese roll. When ordering juices, venture and try varieties you’ve never tasted because a typical lanchonete has more than 20 types of fresh fruits, including acerola, caju (cashew fruit), maracujá (passion fruit), and carambola (star fruit). Traditional Brazilian breakfasts are humble, consisting of a cafezinho or two, toasted bread, and fresh fruit.
Brazilian gastronomy is deeply rooted in how its multicultural history shaped the country and can be tasted in their traditional dishes. Borrowing from their African ancestors, Brazil creates feijoada, a thick and hearty stew of black beans and meats, including pork ribs, bone marrow, and chorizo to name a few. Served over white rice, it’s a typical lunch meal found everywhere at noon. Originating with the slaves, Feijoada was crafted from the scraps of meats, the offal and the odd bone thrown together as substance for them.
Enjoy your meals slowly, because eating on the run or “quickly grabbing a bite” is not Brazilian custom, so learning how to enjoy a two-hour meal is required.
After lunch and sightseeing, everyday snacks include kibes, a traditional Lebanese snack made of ground beef, wheat germ, onions and mint, all deep-fried to perfection. If kibes aren’t your style, grab a slice of pizza. Residents of Sao Paulo, called Paulistanos, swear that their pizza is one of the best in the world. A favorite of the locals is the “Portuguesa”: onions, ham, cheese and hard-boiled eggs.
Eat your way through any region of Brazil and you’ll probably develop a close understanding of why and how food products are made. In some establishments, you can experience first-hand how the kibe maker learned to make these snacks from his grandfather or how the bartender has a secret recipe handed down to her from her mother on making the perfect Caipirihna. This is what makes Brazilians so unique: passion and love for everything they do.
Dinnertime for Brazilians is regularly after 8 pm and is for those adventurous eaters with a ravenous appetite. Head straight to a gaucho-inspired Churrascaria (steakhouse) and indulge in delicious grass-fed beef. Gauchos, loosely related to North American cowboys, are known to make a mean steak, so order the house specialty and accompany it with one of the popular beers in Brazil, either Brahma or Skol. One drink you must try before leaving Brazil is Guarana, a non-alcoholic beverage made from the Guarana fruit. Brazil is known as the third largest consumer of soft-drinks in the world, so tasting a native soda is a must. Find one rich in caffeine to help bolster you for a night of exploring the city.
Whether you’re traveling to the diverse city of Sao Paulo, relaxing on the powdery-white beaches of Ipanema, or exploring the rich history of Salvador Bahia, you’ll find yourself discovering that culture and food in Brazil are one. Brazilian gastronomy is as vast as the country. In the Southeast, you’ll find yourself enjoying multicultural dishes such as sushi and pasta, all alongside traditional foods. Further north, including Rio and Bahia, you’ll feel the marked difference of the Afro-Bahian culture. Items such as plantains, coconut, and seafood are consumed massively all through the North Coast. And although you might not speak the language, you’ll learn this: You won’t ever go hungry for great food in Brazil!