Indulge Your Senses
When I travel abroad I want to make sure I not only see the culture, but taste the culture. If you travel with the intention of indulging all of your senses fully, you will more intensely remember your experiences… so… put down those phones… take a deep breath in… and look around! Then, of course… order something delicious!
Food is special. It is incredible how certain foods or flavors can intensify beautiful memories. If you are hesitant to try new foods and are thinking “easy for her to say.” Trust me, I have not always been so daring with my palate. When I was younger, my embarrassing diet basically consisted of Velveeta macaroni and cheese and Tyson chicken nuggets—things I run away from now! But, taking a trip to Argentina for a study abroad experience with a mindset of “try everything, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” has changed my palate for good!
When I travel, I try to drink and taste everything typical of the region. Traveling this way helps me connect more to the culture, and also with the locals—because that is what they are eating!. Even if you have to politely spit something out, the locals will be elated that you tried! I often fear missing out on trying a “special” dish. Usually there is not enough time to try everything unique to that region. But then again, if you miss out, it’s always a great excuse to go back!
My Favorites That You Must Try—because they are hard to find elsewhere!
Having been to Brazil many times, I have now acquired a list of my favorite foods. These are the things that are very typical of Brazil that I often miss when I come back to the States.
There are a few things I left off simply because you will find them on other lists and I’m not crazy about them. Of course you should try Cachaça and have a Caipirinha, but honestly, I would rather have a margarita or mojito. Also, going to a Brazilian Steakhouse to eat some meat is a given. Yet again, it is not something I feel I have to eat when I go back time and time again (That could just be because Mr. Brazil cooks the top Brazilian cut, picanha, at home quite often…. Or it could be because I was spoiled by incredibly delicious meat in Argentina).
If you have a favorite that is not on this list, please comment and let us know what your favorites are!
1. Fresh Exotic Juice—on every corner
Start your day off truly right. On what seems like every corner in Rio, there are small cafes with quick food and juice bars with the rarest fruits imaginable. They will cut and juice whatever fresh fruit they have on hand. Read this great article with more information about these juice bars.
Tip: Try mixing some of the fruits too! I like orange (laranja) and acerola (a small red fruit whose concentration of Vitamin C is 40 times than an orange). I also love the exotic flavor of graviola (soursop)—the large, green spiky fruit in the center of the picture above.
2. Misto Quente—for a delectable breakfast
Bread toasted on the grill with butter, melted cheese, and ham. This quick, hot breakfast is found at many juice bars and convenience stores that double as small eateries with grills where you can grab a quick meal.
Tip: Ask for it on french bread, which is usually made that morning and queijo minas, a white cheese from Minas Gerais, a state in Brazil beside the state of Rio de Janeiro.
3. Nescau and Coffee
Nescau is the Brazilian and more delicious version of Nestlé powdered chocolate mix. It is used as a delicious hot chocolate mix and used in many Brazilian sweets, such as brigadeiros. I love Nescau, and I love to mix it with a splash of Brazilian coffee. Of course, Brazilian coffee alone is delicious too but if you are expecting a great mug of coffee, that is not very Brazilian. The most common style of coffee is drinking a cafezinho, a shot-sized cup of strong coffee. Read more about different types of coffee here: http://flavorsofbrazil.blogspot.com/2010/11/how-to-order-coffee-in-brazil-and-get.html
4. Coxinha—giant hush puppies
The Brazilians have many salgados, salty pastries, available in bakeries and in corner markets. My absolute favorite is the coxinha- Teardrop-shaped, fried dough filled with shredded chicken and cheese. My brother calls these giant hush puppies! A great food on-the-go, Coxinhas (literally translated is “little thighs” because they were originally made with chicken thighs), are available almost everywhere. Of course, if you can find a salgado in a upscale bakery or restaurant, then called salgados finos, they will be even more delicious because they use better quality ingredients. If you can’t make it to Brazil to try one, the best Coxinha I have ever had was actually in the U.S.!…I need to make it my next mission to find a better one in Brazil… Check out the Brazilian Bakery Cafe if you are ever in the Atlanta area (more specifically, Marietta) and order a Coxinha.
On a side note, another famous Brazilian salgado is pão de queijo (parmesan cheese bread puffs), however, I’ll pass on those any day and take a coxinha.
5. Açaí—with banana!
Açaí is made from the Açaí berry, a fruit grown on a palm species in the Amazon. This dark-purple berry is mashed and typically combined with guaraná syrup and frozen (guaraná is a plant found in the Amazon whose fruit contains twice the concentration of caffeine found in coffee seeds). Açaí kiosks blend the frozen açaí to create a delicious, chilled puree usually eaten with a spoon out of a cup or bowl. You can usually top off the delicious açaí with granola and sliced bananas, and many other açaí bars have an array of other toppings ranging from fruity pebbles to dried tapioca you can add on top of the açaí yourself. So refreshing and delicious! You need to try this the first day you are in Brazil so if you love it (which I think you will), you can eat it everyday if you please!
Tip: I love adding banana to the açaí. You can asked for sliced bananas on top or many açaí bars will blend the banana into the açaí, which is equally delicious!
Tip: If you are in the Amazon, you can more easily find the pure and fresh açaí (without being frozen and without the guaraná). Some think that the pure açaí is too pulpy and strong, but that is the REAL thing and the way I wish I could eat it every time!
6. Collards—with feijoada and orange slices!
Alright, collards don’t sound so special, but keep reading…Feijoada, a famous Brazilian dish, which is a stew of beans, smoked pork, and beef, is delicious and renowned. I am a little spoiled with delicious black beans at home every day from Mister Brazil, so the collards typically served with this dish is my focus. Sometimes when traveling it is hard to find delicious vegetables….yet, vegetables are very important to keep you healthy as your body is exposed to exotic new bacteria and germs! The way the Brazilians prepare these collards is unlike the Southern U.S. style of boiling it to death. They thinly slice the leaves and pan-fry them with garlic and onions. Whenever we cook them for friends, they are a hit!
Tip: Get your tasty veggies and don’t forget to complete the meal with an orange slice. The orange helps your body distribute the iron from the beans 50% more efficiently!
7. Farofa—with Brazilian Picanha steak of course!
A crunchy, hearty topping for beans, steaks, and feijoadas or stews. Farofa is made from farinha (raw, cassava flour) that is toasted usually with butter, salt, onions, garlic, and pieces of meat. I love how farofa adds a delicious flavor and texture. I would suggest trying farofa when you try your picanha, the top meat cut at the Brazilian Steakhouse!
Tip: Farofa is available in bags at supermarkets, but if you can get it homemade, that is the best!
8. Canjica (with Paçoca!)—Festa Junina
This delish dish, canjica, is kind of like a dessert porridge. Made up of white corn and often cooked with coconut milk, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, sweetened condensed milk, and shreds of coconut, it reminds me of a dessert but can be eaten at anytime of day, even breakfast! This dish is typically made for Festa Junina, a traditional festival in June, when the weather is a little cooler, making this warming dish my favorite Brazilian comfort food.
Tip: If you like peanuts, crumble some paçoca on top! Paçoca is a Brazilian candy made from ground peanuts, sugar, and salt. The contrasting salt of the paçoca creates a scrumptious sweet/salty effect with the canjica. If you are unable to find homemade paçoca, you can easily find it packaged at any convenience store that sells candy.
9. Rabanada- Christmas in Brazil
My goodness, I can’t believe it took me so long to try this Brazilian food! I suppose that’s because it is traditionally made for Christmas. However, this dish can be made anytime and I was able to try it thanks to some delicious Brazilian breakfasts prepared at a few of the hotels the See You In Brazil team has reviewed. The closest dish I can compare it to is French Toast because it is made from thick slices of day-old bread. But, calling it “french toast” does not do it justice. The bread is dipped in milk and beaten eggs, fried in butter and deliciously covered in thick syrup made from port, honey and cinnamon. Can you tell I like sweet breakfast foods?!
Now go try them!
I hope this list gives you some different, unique ideas of foods you may want to try when you are in Brazil….aside from the typical lists you may find.
Please leave additional comments about your favorite Brazilian foods and dishes, the ones you long for when you are away!
Tip: All of the salgados are fun to try but don’t eat too many salgados, otherwise you may become too “gordinho(a)” for your Brazilian beach body!