Eating and drinking



Food


Only Brazilians consider their cuisine to be up there with the world's best. Mains are generally heavy, meaty and unspiced. Deserts are often very sweet. That said, the best cooking south of the Rio Grande is in São Paulo and Rio, where a heady mix of international immigrants has resulted in some unusual fusion cooking and exquisite variations on French, Japanese, Portuguese, Arabic and Italian traditional techniques and dishes.

Outside the more sophisticated cities it can be a struggle to find interesting food. The Brazilian staple meal generally consists of a slab of fried or barbecued meat, chicken or fish accompanied by rice, black or South American broad beans and an unseasoned salad of lettuce, grated carrot, tomato and beetroot. Condiments are weak chilli sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper and vinegar.

The national dish is a greasy campfire stew called
feijoada
, made by throwing jerked beef, smoked sausage, tongue and salt pork into a pot with lots of fat and beans and stewing it for hours. The resulting stew is sprinkled with fried
farofa
(manioc flour) and served with
couve
(kale) and slices of orange. The meal is washed down with
cachaça
(sugarcane rum). Most restaurants serve the
feijoada completa
for Saturday lunch (up until about 1630). Come with a very empty stomach.

Brazil's other national dish is mixed grilled meat or
churrasco
, served in vast portions off the spit by legions of rushing waiters, and accompanied by a buffet of salads, beans and mashed vegetables.
Churrascos
are served in
churrascarias
or
rodízios
. The meat is generally excellent, especially in the best
churascarias
, and the portions are unlimited, offering good value for camel-stomached carnivores able to eat one meal a day.

The best cooking in Brazil is not national but regional. Bahia offers an African-infused, welcome break from meat, rice and beans further south, with a variety of seafood dishes.
 Minas Gerais and Goiás are famous for their buffets of stews served over a wood-fired
stove and made from a variety of meats and
cerrado
fruits and vegetables like the
pequi
, which is sucked and never bitten; its flesh covers thousands of tiny, razor sharp spines. Some of the most interesting cooking comes form the Amazon. The river fish here are delicious, especially the firm flesh of the
pacu
and
tambaqui
. The
piracururu
is an endangered species and should only be eaten where it is farmed or fished sustainably, from reserves such as
Mamirauá
.There are myriad strange fruits in the Amazon too, many with unique flavours, including the pungent, sweet
cupuaçu
, which makes delicious cakes, and the tart
camu-camu
, a large glass of which holds a gram of vitamin C.


Eating cheaply

The cheapest dish is the
prato feito
or
sortido
, an excellent-value set menu usually comprising meat/chicken/fish, beans, rice, chips and salad. The
prato comercial
is similar but rather better and a bit more expensive. Portions are usually large enough for two and come with two plates. If you are on your own, you could ask for an
embalagem
(doggy bag) or a
marmita
(takeaway) and offer it to a person with no food (many Brazilians do). Many restaurants serve
comida por kilo
buffets where you serve yourself and pay for the weight of food on your plate. This is generally good value and is a good option for vegetarians.
Lanchonetes
and
padarias
(diners and bakeries) are good for cheap eats; usually serving
prato feitos
,
salgadinhos
, excellent juices and other snacks.

The main meal is usually taken in the middle of the day; cheap restaurants tend not to be open in the evening.

Drink

The national liquor is
cachaça
(also known as
pinga
), which is made from sugar-cane, and ranging from cheap supermarket and service-station fire-water, to boutique distillery and connoisseur labels from the interior of Minas Gerais. Mixed with fruit juice, sugar and crushed ice,
cachaça
becomes the principal element in a
batida
, a refreshing but deceptively powerful drink. Served with pulped lime or other fruit, mountains of sugar and smashed ice it becomes the world's favourite party cocktail,
caipirinha
. A less potent
caipirinha
made with vodka is called a
caipiroska
and with sake a
saikirinha
or
caipisake
.

Some genuine Scotch whisky brands are bottled in Brazil. They are far cheaper even than duty free; Teacher's is the best. Locally made and cheap gin, vermouth and campari are pretty much as good as their US and European counterparts.

Wine is becoming increasingly popular, with good-value Portuguese and Argentinean bottles and some reasonable national table wines such as Château d'Argent, Château Duvalier, Almadén, Dreher, Preciosa and more respectable Bernard Taillan, Marjolet from Cabernet grapes, and the Moselle-type white Zahringer. A new
adega
tends to start off well, but the quality gradually deteriorates with time; many vintners have switched to American Concorde grapes, producing a rougher wine. Greville Brut champagne-style sparkling wine is inexpensive and very drinkable.

Brazilian beer is generally lager, served ice-cold. Draught beer is called
chope
or
chopp
(after the German Schoppen, and pronounced 'shoppi'). There are various national brands of bottled beers, which include Brahma, Skol, Cerpa, Antartica and the best Itaipava and Bohemia. There are black beers too, notably Xingu. They tend to be sweet. The best beer is from the German breweries in Rio Grande do Sul and is available only there.

Fruit juices or
sucos
come in infinite, delicious variety.
Açai
,
acerola
,
caju
(cashew),
pitanga
,
goiaba
(guava),
genipapo
,
graviola
(
chirimoya
),
maracujá
(passion fruit),
sapoti
and
tamarindo
are but a few of the most delicious.
Açai
acts as a powerful stimulant, particularly when combined with powdered, Amazonian
guaraná
nut.
Vitaminas
are thick fruit or vegetable drinks with milk.
Caldo de cana
is sugar-cane juice, sometimes mixed with ice.
Água de côco
or
côco verde
is coconut water served straight from a chilled, fresh green coconut. The best known of many local soft drinks is
guaraná
, which is a very popular carbonated fruit drink, completely unrelated to the Amazon nut. The best variety is
guaraná Antarctica
. Coffee is ubiquitous and good tea entirely absent.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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