Brazilian cuisine differs with each region. The local ingredients used in cooking are root vegetables like cassava (locally known as mandioca, aipim or macaxeira), yams and peanuts and fruit such as acai, cupuacu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passionfruit, pineapple, and hog plum.
A popular national snack is Brazilian pine nuts called pinhao which grow on a tree that is abundant in the southern part of Brazil. The common foods are rice and beans as well as fish, beef, and pork. A popular dessert is Cuscuz Branco which consists of milled tapioca. Brazil is also known for its cachaca, a popular native liquor used to make the chic Caipirinha cocktails. This is the national cocktail of Brazil that includes cachaca, sugar, and lime.
The south of Brazil is made up of the states of Parana, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. The gaucho (cowboy of the pampa) added to the natonal cuisine using salt or sun-dried meats and churrasco (a Brazilian counterpart of barbecue), a meal of grilled meats on over-sized skewers.
A traditional dish from the state of Parana is Barreado which is boiled meat, made in ceramic pans, and often put under the soil to boil with the sun’s heat. European immigrants (Germans, Italians, Poles. and Portuguese) were accustomed to a wheat-based diet and introduced wine, leaf vegetables and dairy products. When they could not get potatoes, they discovered how to use the native sweet manioc as a replacement. Even pasta dishes became popular.
The Southeastern region is made up of the states of Espirito, Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo which is the industrial heart of Brazil. In Minas Gerais, the regional dishes include corn, pork, beans, chicken, and local soft-ripened traditional cheeses. In Rio, Feijoada, a black bean and meat stew is popular, especially as a Wednesday or Saturday lunch.
In Sao Paulo, a delicious dish is Virado a Paulista which is made with rice, tutu de feijao (a paste of beans and manioc flour), sautéed collard greens, and pork chops. It is usually served with pork rinds, bits of sausage, a fried egg, and a fried banana. Sao Paulo cuisine shows the influence of European and Middle Eastern immigrants. Pizza and sushi have also become popular.
The states of Acre, Amazonas, Amapa, Para, Rondonia, Roraima and Tocantins make up the North region of Brazil. One of the most famous dishes from Para is Pato no tucupi (Duck in tucupi). This dish is usually prepared for the celebration of Cino de Nazare. The dish is prepared with tucupi (yellow broth extracted from cassava and it needs to be cooked for over a week), the duck, after cooking, is cut into pieces and boiled in tucupi. The jambu (a special type of plant) is boiled in water with salt, drained and put on the duck. This is served with rice and manioc flour.
The Northeast part of Brazil consists of the states of Algoas, Bahia, Ceara, Maranhao, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Piaui, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe. The main cuisine in the state of Bahia is Afro-Bahian, which evolved from plantation cooks improvising on African, Amerindian, and traditional Portuguese dishes. Typical dishes include Vatapa and Moqueca (both having seafood and palm oil).
Acaraje, which has become a traditional street food. It is a salted muffin made with white beans, onion and fried palm oil which is filled with shrimp, red pepper, and caruru (mashed okra with ground cashew nut, smoked shrimp, onion, pepper, and garlic).
Some typical dishes:
Beef Round Eye Sandwiches – Beef is put into a pressure cooker with water, vinegar, salt, and garlic. Cooked for 50 minutes after the regulator starts to blow steam. While beef cools mix together diced tomatoes, diced onions, diced green peppers. The beef is then finely sliced and layered in a casserole dish alternating layers of sliced beef with layers of vinaigrette and refrigerated. Served on bread.
Coxinha – Chicken breast fillet is pressure cooked for about 10 minutes with chopped onion, garlic, beef bouillon, salt, ground pepper, margarine, and three cups of water. When it is done the chicken is removed from the broth and finely chopped to make the coxinha filling adding parsley and green onions. Three cups of the remaining broth are brought to a boil and three cups of flour are added to the boiling broth and stirred with a wooden spoon until it becomes a dough. The dough is then taken out of the pan and kneaded until it becomes smooth. Flattened with a rolling pin and medium circles are cut with a biscuit cutter. On the dough place a small cube of cream cheese and then filled with the chicken filling, sealed shut in the shape of a drum stick (a little chicken drumstick in Portuguese translates to “coxinha”) basted with egg whites and rolled in breadcrumbs. The snacks are then deep-fried until golden brown.
Brazilian Black Bean Soup – Black beans are soaked overnight. Then drained and water or stock and salt are added and simmered for 1 and ½ hours. Chopped onions, carrots, celery, and garlic are sautéed. Cumin and coriander are added and cooked until the vegetables are tender. The vegetables are then added to the cooking beans and about 10 minutes before the beans are ready add oranges, orange and lemon juice, sherry, black and red pepper and stir. Cook 10 minutes more.
Eggplant Soup – Peeled and dice eggplant is added to diced onions, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms with olive oil. Layered in a jellyroll pan and roasted until brown about 1 hour. Then the vegetables are pureed in a blender and transferred to a saucepan. Chicken broth and red wine are added. Simmered for about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add basil and oregano and serve.
Salpicao Salad – Chicken breast is cooked with salt, drained, and cut into cubes. Coarsely grate carrots and ham slices are cut into fine strings. Peel, core, and cube a green apple. In a large bowl combine chicken, ham, drained peas, chopped hearts of palm, carrots and diced apples. Mix together with a cup of mayonnaise.
Brazilian Salad – Line a large platter with Romaine and leaf lettuce leaves, The remaining lettuce is broken up into bite-sized pieces and placed over the leaves. Then tomato slices are arranged over the lettuce with onion slices in between them. Next to the tomatoes are arranged slice hearts of palm and rows of garbanzo beans are added. To serve sprinkle with parsley and olive oil.
Beef or Chicken Stroganoff – Chicken or beef cubes are lightly fried with margarine, onion, garlic, and salt. Then a ½ cup of water is added to make a thick sauce, add mushrooms. Cook until meat is tender. When done add sour cream and ketchup.
Carne de Sol or Meat of the Sun is dried and dehydrated beef served with onions and chips of potatoes.