Brazil’s name over the years has been closely associated with images of football, favelas (poor neighbourhoods), beaches and bikini-clad women playing volleyball. Although it is true that it does indeed have all these things, it cannot solely be defined by them. There are many beautiful places in Brazil with some of the kindest and warmest people I have ever met. Brazilian cuisine is a melting pot of its very mixed heritage, with the country home to people from almost every continent on the planet. In this article however, I shall limit myself to a single slice of south east Brazil, the vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro.
Rio is one of the most iconic cities in the world and its native residents are the carioca. Note: The term ‘carioca’ is used to determine someone or something that exclusively comes from the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is, regardless of any class divide, a place where both the poor and elite rub shoulders on a daily basis, Rio is a powerhouse in the tourism industry and is full of both glam restaurants where you can sit and enjoy sumptuous food as well as little kiosks where you can pick up salgados (savoury snacks), pastéis (pastries) and some pão de queijo (cheese bread balls) for R$ 3/4. brought together by the pride of their carioca nature as well as the stunning beaches.
Nowadays, churrascarias (essentially rotisseries of barbecued meat) can be found up and down the country, but it is in Rio that the meat dish is a true staple of local diet. The churrascarias are continuously pumping out enormous quantities of meat which you’ll eat alongside the mouth-watering feijoada (Brazilian black beans with meat mixed in with it), white rice and farofa (a manioc flour based accompaniment). For meat lovers, you can pig out to your heart’s content and still find room for thirds. For vegetarians, you can opt for the feijão (Brazilian brown or black beans), white rice and farofa as well as whatever you can eat from a selection of salads and vegetables that’ll be available too. There are also other delicacies which you can find, such as palm heart empanadas (which look like little pot pies).
To drink… Well, the abundance of fruit allows hundreds of juices, smoothies, shakes and cocktail combinations. My personal favourite is a fresh passionfruit and lime juice with a hint of sugar. The fizzy drink Guaraná can also be enjoyed. Beer is the most consumed alcoholic drink by Brazilians, cheap and freely available with the most popular brands being Skol, Brahma and Antarctica. However, although beer brands may be plastered all over the floats at the Rio carnival, it is the caipirinha that is the national drink alongside the richly flavoured black Brazilian coffee.
Make a refreshing Brazilian Caipirinha
Caipirinhas are typically post dinner drinks, as are the caipiroskas. Everyone has their own little secret ingredient but below are the staples to make this refreshing cocktail to share with family or friends:
Ingredients (to make a jug)
- 70 cl Cachaça (Try Cachaça Coqueiro or Cachaça Magnífica – they’re from Rio de Janeiro)
- 5 juicy limes
- 12 tbsps. Brown/demerara sugar
- 1 kg crushed ice cubes,
- 1 small bunch fresh mint leaves
For the caipiroska, just substitute the cachaça for vodka.
Here’s a little recipe tip! Suitable for carnivores, omnivores and vegetarians. Here is a very tasty recipe on how to make Farofa. This dish can be served warm, cold, or room temperature. Serve alongside your feijão and rice and meat and/or vegetables.
- 500g manioc flour (farinha de mandioca)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- Vegetable oil (2 tbsps.) or/ 55g Butter
- 2 large rashers of bacon and/or 3 boiled eggs and/or one medium bottle of pitted black olives
Add the vegetable oil into your frying pan (medium heat) or gently melt the butter. Carefully add the onions and sauté them until they are lightly golden. Add the bacon (finely chopped) and fry for 3/4 minutes. Add the manioc flour and slowly stir. Keep it over the heat for approx. 1 minute. Remove from the heat and place into a serving bowl. Add the chopped boiled eggs and/or the olives.
Any visit to Rio de Janeiro is one to remember and as long as you are responsible and observant when in certain areas of the city, you will have an excellent time. Check out the beaches, enjoy the volleyball and enjoy the cuisine!
About the author
A BA (Hons) French and Spanish graduate from University College London, Maísa Edwards is a keen language enthusiast. Although well traveled around Europe, she has also visited Brazil many times where she explored several aspects of its culture with her Brazilian family as well as living and working in the Caribbean islands. An avid reader with a great appetite for learning, she is also a writer of short stories and poetry. Find more of her works on her website Marie-Isabel.