TRAVEL GAZETTE – 2016 Olympic Games host Rio de Janeiro is one of the globe’s culinary capitals, offering the best of Brazilian cuisine, as well as international fare.
Brazil’s varied ethnic makeup, including African, Portuguese and indigenous cultures, is reflected in its range of national dishes, with each region boasting local specialties.
Brazil’s star national dish is “feijoada,” a thick hearty stew of black beans and pork accompanied by white rice, “farofa” (toasted manioc flour), thinly shredded cabbage and orange slices. The dish is traditionally eaten on Saturdays.
While many foreigners may not have heard about feijoada, they almost certainly are familiar with the popular Brazilian export known as the “churrascaria,” a dining concept that has taken the world by storm. Customers at the Brazilian-style steakhouse pay a fixed price for a wide range of barbecued meat dishes, all served on sword-long skewers.
At lunch time, Brazilians prefer what is locally known as “buffets by the kilo,” where, as the name implies, clients can choose from an ample buffet and pay for their dish by weight.
Desserts often feature Brazil’s variety of tropical fruits, from maracuya (passion fruit) to mango, guayaba, papaya, sugarcane, coconut and pineapple, often whipped into a mousse.
A popular baked dessert is “quindim,” a Portuguese-influenced custard made with sugar, egg yolks and coconut.
For a bite on the go, Rio’s tourism districts, especially the downtown area, and Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, are teeming with food stands and food carts.
Try the buttered corn on the cob, tapioca crepes filled with sweet or savory fillings, like chocolate, banana or coconut, and cheese or ground beef, and churros (sugar-sprinkled fried dough sticks) filled with chocolate syrup or milk caramel.
“Botecos” are typical bars that serve food, such as “bolinhos de bacalhau,” (cod croquettes) another Portuguese-inspired dish, and meat- or shrimp-filled turnovers called “pastes.”
Fans of fish and seafood should try “casquinha de siri” made with crab meat served in its own shell. “Coxinhas” are chicken croquettes and “linguica encebollada” is a type of sausage that’s sliced, fried and served with cooked onions.
Brazilians drink a lot of beer, mainly because the local variety is only mildly alcoholic and the high temperatures make it a popular alternative.
However, the country’s national drink is the caipirinha, a cocktail made of cachaca (firewater made of sugarcane), lime and sugar. That’s the traditional recipe, though bars also offer newfangled versions made with strawberries, grapes or tropical fruits.
For a non-alcoholic thirst quencher, try coconut water or any of numerous fruit juices, sold at stands everywhere. And to top off a meal, order a “cafezinho,” a strong-tasting cup of coffee.