South America boasts a fusion of flavours so unique that no other continent can quite compete. And within that is its crowning glory: a little country called Brazil – perhaps you’ve heard of it? Home to Rio Carnival, Christ the Redeemer and of course the 2016 Olympic Games, it’s also got some of the best dishes and ingredients going. Here we look at nine Brazilian foods you have to try, to help you distinguish your bolinho de chuva from your brigadeiro. Hold onto your spatulas!
Bolinho de chuva
Similar to the delicious Mexican sopaipilla dessert dish, bolinha de chuva is like a deep-fried sugary dumpling. Flour, milk, eggs and baking powder are combined before being fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Think doughnuts… but better. Be warned though: you can never just have one.
Simple yet scrumptious, this layered tiramisu-esque dessert is a Brazilian favourite. It requires no baking and instead simply calls for condensed milk, vanilla essence, brandy, lemon juice, several packets of cookies and plenty of fridge time. Alternate layers of brandy, milk and vanilla-soaked biccies with layers of condensed milk and lemon juice, refrigerate and, five hours later, voila!
Found in the markets of Rio de Janeiro, Acarajé is a dish comprised of peeled beans that are squashed into balls before being deep fried in palm oil. For authenticity, try yours served with a paste made from shrimp and cashew nuts or, for veggies, a sauce made from hot peppers and green tomatoes.
Another fried dish (are you spotting the theme here?), this beloved street food snack is pear-shaped, resembling the chicken thighs that used to be the main ingredient. Chicken breast is used these days, combined with chicken stock, veg and garlic which is blended into a tasty shredded mixture. After being encased in dough, it is then bread-crumbed before being fried. Grub on the go doesn’t get much guiltier, or much tastier, than this.
This Brazilian truffle is a national favourite. The idea was invented after World War II, when rationing made it difficult to find fresh milk and sugar. This sweet treat uses just condensed milk and chocolate – much easier to get hold of during the war. It’s stood the test of time though and now has several variations: brigadeiro ice creams, brigadeiro cakes and even brigadeiro pizza! But undoubtedly the most popular form of brigadeiro is when it’s in small balls, coated in chocolate sprinkles.
Any barbecued meat
If you’ve had the good fortune to eat at a Brazilian barbecue restaurant in the UK, you’ll have a small idea of what this entails. Meat is a big deal in Brazil, especially when it’s cooked in churrasco style – that’s Portuguese for barbecue. Lord knows how they make it taste so good, but everything from beef to pork to chicken to fish can be cooked on this rotisserie and is often served on skewers rodizio style, i.e. all you can eat. Bottom line: wear trousers with a stretchy waistband.
Pão de queijo
Two of my favourite things on the planet – cheese and bread – make up this deletable breakfast dish. That said, the original version of the snack didn’t even include cheese until the 19th century, but it’s this addition that has transformed it into a Brazilian staple. On your travels, you’ll find it at snack bars, bakeries, and supermarkets, where it can be bought frozen to cook at home (or in your self-catering apartment or hotel).
Known for its superfood properties, acai berries are harvested from the acai palm in the Brazilian Amazon. For indigenous peoples living in the rainforest, this grape-like purple berry is a huge portion of their diet, making it an important nutrient for the country and its culture. In Rio and other big cities or towns, you’ll find it in a range of smoothies, food and supplements.
Otherwise known as fried cassava, this simple crispy root-veg snack is extremely popular throughout Brazil. Served in a baton shape, it’s the country’s answer to French fries, and will really get your taste buds tingling when paired with a sprinkling of onion or garlic suit. Move over McCain!
Try these incredible foods for yourself on one of our tailor-made holidays to Brazil.