Anthony Bourdain doesn't shy away from any culinary excursion – even if it involves risking the health and safety of himself and his crew. Dubbed "the last great undiscovered culinary frontier" in the episode's opening scene, Brazil's Amazon jungle is the setting for this food tour, and the bold local fare proves to be worth the trip – well, at least in hindsight.

Aided by a translator, local chefs, and other Amazonian experts, Tony navigates the Amazon region's mighty river, untamed jungle, and indigineous dining scene. Experiencing everything from authentic Brazil nuts and flaming hot pickled cherry peppers to excruciating back pain that had him "chewing Vicodin like Twizzlers," Tony certainly has a memorable trip. 

"I’ve been all over the world. Everything tastes kind of like something else," Tony explains after one meal. "Not here. It's all new." 

So what are the exotic flavors that inspired this remark, you ask? Here's a recap of his trip to the Amazon in season seven of No Reservations:


Tony's journey begins in the European-esque city of Belem, home of Ver-o-Peso market. He tastes various fruits reminiscent of mangos, oranges, and even chocolate and custard, but which still possessing their own distinct flavors.

Jambu is a leafy green that's featured in traditional dishes but is also used to heal toothaches and soothe stomach pain. The analgesic leaf numbs Tony's lips when he tries it. He describes the tingling sensation as "shocking but not unpleasant," and ultimately names jambu "the cocaine of salad greens.” 


In addition to sampling exotic fruits, Tony also scopes out the fish market. Filhote is a large freshwater catfish that can weigh as much as 600 pounds. It is traditionally cooked, but Tony boldly asks to try a sliver raw. This is a foreign concept to Brazilians, but after convincing the fishmonger to cut him a slice, Tony describes the raw fish as "extraordinary" and wonders how it has not yet been exported for sushi elsewhere.

Chef Oliviera de Ofir purchases some of this fish to prepare for dinner with Tony that evening. Indigenous people used to cook the filhote in banana leaves for flavor and preservation purposes, but this traditional method persists today, as later demonstrated by chef Ofir.


The adventure continues at chef Ofir's home, located in Brazil's Coqueiro district, where Tony is introduced to this tasty and versatile broth. Made from grating the flesh of cassava into a liquid, Tucupi can be deadly if consumed raw, as it contains cyanid and other toxins.

Originally, the Indians used the poisonous substance for the tips of the arrows, and eventually (hopefully without too much trial and error) they discovered how to safely extract and boil it into this beloved broth.

Chef Ofir prepares a meal composed entirely of indigenous cuisine, and he uses tucupi as a sauce for the filhote fish he brought home from the market, combining the broth with herbs, garlic, salt, and lemon. 


Also known as yucca, this root vegetable is a staple ingredient that Tony encounters in just about every Amazonian meal. In addition to being the source of tucupi, cassava is also toasted and served as farina in chef Ofir's meal. 

Freshwater crabs and a fishy broth that the chef claims is an aphrodisiac round out the meal, which, of course, leads to raunchy jokes and one-liners of typical Tony Bourdain-fashion. 


Instead of meeting some friends at a smoothie shop post-SoulCycle to get his fix of açaí, Tony takes a more authentic approach and goes straight to the source: the Amazon jungle. He meets up with Dr. Carualho, a Brazilian fauna expert, and a local who demonstrates the açaí acquisition process.

He ties a palm frond around his ankles to more easily scale the incredibly tall, branchless tree, shimmies his way up to the top, and harvests the fresh berries. To his crew's (and viewers') dismay, Tony refuses to pick some açaí berries of his own, referring to the task as "humping trees for smoothies." Relatively unimpressed, he describes the prized fruit as tasting like a tarter version of a blueberry. 

He learns that Indians traditionally ate açaí berries first thing in the morning, enabling them to work all day without needing to stop for lunch. The ancient superfood is high in antioxidants, reduces cholesterol, fights cancer and heart disease, and is clearly worth the journey up the tree.

After hearing about all of these health benefits, Tony changes his position on the berries from "eh" to willing-to-snort-some-açaí-powder. He learns that the preferred method of consumption is actually soaking the berries to soften their skin, then mashing them up into a thick oatmeal-esque consistency, and topping with toasted cassava.


When Tony explores Brazil's street fare, he visits Doña Maria, who has been serving her famous tacaca for over 30 years. This traditional soup is a local favorite made with tucupi broth, analgesic-containing jambu leaves, shrimp, and hot cherry peppers. The tucupi is thickened with tapioca gum to create a satisfying soup, and the jambu creates the tingling sensation introduced to Tony back at Ver-o-Peso market. 


After embarking on a nature walk, hanging with some monkeys, flying through miles of jungle in dangerously stormy conditions, developing serious back pain, and losing faith in his seemingly crazy translator, Tony relies on humor and Vicodin to get him through this last leg of the adventure. Despite these hiccups and his camera man developing some sort of Amazonian virus, the show must go on, so the crew throws on their ponchos and boards their humble boat.

In what he calls the most successful fishing scene ever captured on his show, Tony watches his guides wrestle two of these "giant, slimy, prehistoric fish." They let one pirarucu go and load the other onto the boat, and, finally, Tony gets to head back to safety and, more importantly, another meal.

Since this fish is bigger than any of the humans that caught it, seven people are needed to prepare it for cooking. Pirarucu requires a grill the size of a pool table and a tarp needs to be rolled out on the dinner table for serving purposes.  

Pirarucu is traditionally cooked with cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and olive oil, and its scales are so large that they are often dried and used as nail files. Vataca, a popular stew of shrimp, peanuts, coconut, and palm oil complements the fish in this meal, and the other elements of the dinner are comprised of the leftover pirarucu. 

Some of the fish is sautéed in coconut milk, and other parts are used to make pirarucu caviar. Tony is impressed with the taste of this monster fish, but is ready to get back home where the fish may be smaller, but the living is far easier.

Amazonian Eats Today

At the end of the episode, Tony concludes that the exciting indigenous foods he encountered in Brazil were comprised of “tastes that just don’t exist outside the jungle.” He explains that "the jungle guards her secrets well," and insists that you simply can't find this stuff in your local grocery store. As difficult as it was for his crew to film this episode without dying of jungle disease or losing their sanity, it seems to be even more difficult to export 600-pound fish and the other indigenous flavors of the Amazon.

Well, this episode originally aired in April 2011, but now – six years later – these foods actually are making their way to American health food markets. Siete specializes in grain-free tortillas and tortilla chips that are made from cassava flourSwap Foods developed Yuca toaster waffles, and Plant Snacks' claim to fame is their Cassava Crunch chips. There is no doubt that açaí has found its place in the mainstream market, and Tony even includes his own açaí bowl recipe in his 2016 cookbook, Appetites. Who knows, maybe we'll even be having Filhote sushi someday.