Indian and African ingredients, a little bit of Europe and a little bit of Latin America mixed in a continental country like Brazil could only produce one result - a diverse cuisine with rich flavours. Who hasn't tried and fallen in love with Amazonian river fish? Or prawns from the northeast, not to mention cold weather fondue in the south.
According to Bronislav Dolgopyat and Kamila Velibekova, Russian-speaking guides of the Brazilian tourist service, each state of the country has its own main dish. For example, in the Amazon they prepare fish that is not found anywhere else - pirarucu, tambaqui. In Maranhão there are many shrimp dishes, in Bahia there is muqueca made of fish or shrimp and acarajé, a bean bread where shrimp is added.
Moqueca (also sometimes called Moqueca de Peixe) is a fish stew of onions, peppers, tomatoes, coriander leaves and chilli peppers cooked with palm oil (dende oil) and coconut milk. The dish is of indigenous Brazilian origin and was originally made from the leaves of various trees. There are two varieties of moqueca: Moqueca Baiana from the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil and Moqueca Capixaba from the state of Espirito Santo in the southeast.
Acarajé are thick buns made of white beans and onions that are left overnight. They are fried in palm oil and served with watapa, dried prawn cream or green bean caruru. This is a typical dish from Bahia.
But the dish common to all of Brazil is feijoada: it includes all kinds of salted meat (ribs, assorted sausages, jerky, legs, ears, tails, tenderloin, bacon) and beans. Feijoada is served with orange slices, cabbage stewed in garlic, rice and farofa (an appetiser based on roasted cassava flour, a kind of hodgepodge).
"The dish may seem a bit primitive, but this is not French cuisine: Brazilians like to eat a lot, and eating is a special ritual for them, when families and neighbours spend time together," explained Bronislav Dolgopyat.
Feijoada goes well with cachaça, a typical Brazilian alcoholic drink made from fermented and distilled sugar cane juice.
According to Kamila Velibekova, gastronomic pleasure from national dishes in Brazil is experienced not only by tourists, but also by locals. We can safely say that the quality of food in street eateries is not inferior to that of restaurants, except that the presentation is more spectacular.
A traditional Brazilian dish that foodies will love is braised turtle (guisado de tartaruga). Tender and very tasty turtle meat is served in its shell. It is combined with gluten-free flour, which is fried in oil with spices and bananas.
Carreteiro rice, typical of Rio Grande do Sul, is popular in the southern regions of the country. The dish originated when cartereiros (cargo carriers), travelling in ox-drawn wagons, cooked a mixture of rice and dried meat stew in an iron cauldron. It was very easy to prepare. Arroz de carreteiro has been incorporated into Brazilian cuisine and is now quite commonly found and tasted in all regions of the country.
And to complete the list - a dish with a century-old history. Coxinha (cochinha) is a crispy and golden snack in the shape of chicken legs. According to legend, a skilful chef, when there were no chicken thighs in the house, which Princess Elizabeth's son loved so much, kneaded dough with chicken broth, finely chopped chicken meat, made croquettes in the shape of chicken thighs (in Russia this part of the chicken is more often called just a leg or shank, thigh for us - the upper part of the chicken leg) and fried them. The delicacy was highly prized in the royal household, and the recipe for coxinha spread throughout Latin America. The appetiser is prepared exclusively as chicken thighs, in honour of the chef. The dish can be sampled literally everywhere, including supermarkets.
Brazilian cuisine is a unique and diverse blend of cultural influences, natural treasures and culinary traditions. The wide variety of dishes reflects the country's long history, including the influence of the natives, Europeans, Africans and other ethnic groups. From exotic fruits to a variety of meats, Brazilian cuisine is a real journey through a variety of tastes and flavours.
Traditional Brazilian dishes such as feijoada and moqueca not only delight in flavour, but also help keep you connected to the country's rich cultural history. Brazilians are proud of their culinary heritage and often come together to share festive meals and celebrations, preserving traditions and enriching them with new culinary experiments.
With its wealth of ingredients and culinary techniques, Brazilian cuisine can be a real culinary treat.Photo: IStock