Believe it or not, there is a lot more to Brazil than beaches, bikinis, and butts. Even though I grew up away from Brazil, my mum’s cooking served as my tie to the country.
My family comes from Salvador, a city in the state of Bahia. So as a somewhat Baiana, I believe that there is a lot to learn from our culture and our people through our food, which is a lot more and a lot better than churrasco. So here is my list of the top eleven foods you can’t leave Brazil without trying.
Acarajé is an Afro-Brazilian beach food dish made from peeled beans shaped into a ball and then deep-fried in dendê. It is served split in half with your choice of vatapa, salad, and/or shrimp. So, lucky for all you vegans (including me) and vegetarians out there, you can still enjoy this insanely delicious, not-so-healthy dish.
2. Feijão com Farofa de Banana
As everyone knows, Brazil is known for its black bean dish, feijoada, but in Bahia we give it a little kick by adding bananas. It may sound a little weird, but trust me, it is incredible.
3. Moqueca de Camarão
This shrimp stew is a classic dish for any occasion, but definitely best enjoyed at a barraca for lunch after a day spent at the beach. Unfortunately, it’s not suitable for vegans/vegetarians. But if you are lucky you can sometimes find places that serve moqueca de caju (cashew stew), which is just as delicious, since you can still taste the rich flavours of coconut milk and dendê.
Beiju is probably one of my favourite breakfasts to have when back home and it is super simple and easy to make. It is best described as a sort of tapioca crepe with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings of your choice. My brothers enjoy it with cheese and peito de peru and my mum likes the “Romeo & Juliette” classic (cheese with goibada, a sort of guava marmalade), but I like to make mine with shredded coconut and bananas. Oh and of course you can’t forget a cup of black coffee.
This is definitely a more acquired taste, but this Afro-Brazilian dish is a classic from Bahia that you can’t miss out on. Abará is based on a dough or paste made from mashed black-eyed peas. As you can probably tell by now, we love our beans.
6. Bolinho de Peixe
Bolinho de peixe, or fish cakes, are a deliciously popular beach food in Bahia that can be found in just about any barraca and typically enjoyed as an appetizer to moqueca de camarão.
This is a traditional coconut “bark” sweet from Latin America. I may be a little biased, but Brazil does it better. It’s a great dessert to enjoy after eating acarajé.
8. Açaí na Tijela
Over the last year açai has become the trending superfood — all the celebrities are eating it and all of the foodies are talking about it and instagramm-ing it. However, here in the States they are lacking a little something… the real taste of açaí.
The original (and my favorite) way to have açaí bowls is to blend it with only water or coconut water, which gives it a a more frozen yogurt-like texture, and then adding topings, usually banana and granola. It’s pretty simple but it really allows you to enjoy the gritty and earthy taste of açaí.
The best beach snack and, luckily for me, vegan. It is a must when hanging around the beaches in Salvador. You’ll hear a guy ringing a little bell and yelling “Capelinha,” and you’ll know that he’s selling these amazing popsicles made from natural flavours and ingredients. I recommend the peanut (amendoim) flavour (made with water, peanut paste, and sugar) or the coconut flavor, but feel free to taste of all of the other flavors… I always do.
10. Agua De Coco
Not a Brazilian exclusive, but still — who doesn’t want to enjoy coconut water at the beach?
#SpoonTip: Always ask the guy to cut it in half so you can enjoy the meat when you’re done drinking.
Caipirinha is the famous Brazilian classic cocktail. It’s similar to a mojito but is made with cashasa, which comes from sugar cane. Nothing is better than enjoying this under the hot sun.