Churros and lots of chilies: Those images are frequently the things popping inside our minds when we think about Brazilian cuisines. Sure, Brazilians are known for their knack for spicy foods. Simply put, no spiciness means no Brazilians!
Now, like any other worldly cuisines, such things have their histories. Brazilian culinary culture itself is pretty much an old culture that we can trace back to the 1500s. It is also the year when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil for the first time. As a result, they influence lots of ingredients we find today in many Brazilian foods.
Let’s look at the key food (and beverage) elements that make a cuisine Brazilian before we trace the culinary histories up until now:
What are the food (and beverage) elements that make Brazilian cuisines?
Chili is a signature Brazilian cuisine ingredient that almost everybody knows. However, Brazilian cuisines’ horizons are broader than just chilis. The chili ingredient itself has the longest history in Brazilian cuisines, and Brazilian people use chili in huge varieties of foods.
Some examples of dishes that use chili include Moqueca de Peixa and spicy shrimp stews. Some of these dishes use the extremely-spicy Tabasco chili sauces and goat peppers.
As for proteins, Brazilian cuisines have abundant sources of meaty protein. As a result, you can frequently find grilled chicken or lamb as the primary barbecue menus. We can witness such things up until their street food ingredients, such as Picanha and Kibe primarily use meat products.
As a result, it’s hard to be a vegan in Brazil because of the ingredients. Brazilian desserts also tend to have plenty of milk and cheese content as their ingredients. Chocolate desserts are also common in these types of cuisines. In particular, chocolate mousses and ice creams that have the spicy lady’s fingers chili as the toppings are uniquely Brazilian.
Brazil is also one of the world’s regions to have many alcoholic varieties. Some alcohol brands made in Brazil are Shiraz and Bacardi. The former is great with any barbecued meats, while the latter is great with desserts like ice creams.
The histories behind Brazilian cuisines that we know today
Today, we know almost all Brazilians speak Portuguese. Sometimes, we confuse their cuisines with cuisines in other Portuguese-speaking countries. It is because the Portuguese’s influence dates back to the 1500s.
At that time, Portuguese people introduced sugarcane as the crop for Brazilian foods. They also taught local people to produce bread from tapioca starches. As a result, we see lots of delicious traditional Brazilian pastries, such as the half-circle or rectangular-shaped pasteis with different kinds of minced meats as the stuffings.
Also, we see different meat and seafood ingredients in Brazilian main courses today. Some examples are the meat content in Brazilian feijoada, Vaca Atolada (the mandioca stew from the southeastern regions), Angus beef meals in the southern Brazil areas, and more. These entire things are also the results of the Portuguese’s influence on the country.
Portuguese isn’t the only country that influences the cuisines up until now. African people also influence Brazilian’s use of okra in their dishes, such as the sauteed okra or the Brazilian chicken stews. It is also the African people that bring black beans to Brazilian foods’ ingredients and develop drinks to substitute beers.
However, the African influence on the cuisine is not as massive as their Portuguese counterparts. Only one Brazilian region has the most African influence on their cuisines, and that is the northeastern region. Some of the dishes there are the Acaraje fritters and the Moqueca Baiana stew.
Then, again, we can still find many beer stalls in other Brazilian regions. Not stopping there, starred hotels in city centers also frequently sell Syrah, Bacardi, and other types of wines, liquors, and whiskeys. These entire beverages are the results of the Portuguese influences instead of the Africans’ influences.
Brazilian cuisines in the modern world
Brazilian cuisines are the cuisines that retain their Portuguese-influenced characteristics more than cuisines from other parts of the world, even in modern settings. Today, we see Brazilian BBQ menus in many five-star hotels and restaurants all over the world.
Carnivore Brazilian Churrascaria in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands is one of the examples that serve several huge-sized types of meat according to Brazilian BBQ settings.
However, Brazilian soups like Moqueca are rare to see, even in five-star hotels and restaurants. If there are any soups available in shopping malls or restaurants, those soups would be chili. Then, again, most people will confuse chili in black bean soups with the super-spicy bird-eye chili that becomes foods’ toppings.
Desserts are the cuisines from Brazil that have more modifications in the modern world. Earlier in this article, we mentioned churros as the Brazilian desserts that most people know these days.
In modern days, churros are even closer to the country’s culture due to the abundant sugar content as the toppings. Chocolate sauces are not the only sauces as we can customize the sauces with other “modern” tastes, such as French vanilla, butterscotch, Nutella, or even any mixtures of these flavors.
We can also find Brazilian-flavored ice creams in many ice cream stalls. Many of these ice creams have alcoholic flavors that are delicious. They also tend to come with conventional cup or cone servings instead of chili toppings like in the actual country.
Some final words about Brazilian cuisines
Indeed, these types of cuisines rely so much on chili. People have recognized Brazil regions to use chili in nearly every dish, either as chili oil or even as toppings for ice creams and mousses.
However, chili isn’t the only staple ingredient in Brazilian cuisines. Brazilian people are also fond of chocolate, milk, butter, and sugar, and we can see these four ingredients in their desserts. Their mostly-baked desserts are also the results of Portuguese influence, along with some spices in other dishes that have both Portuguese and African influences.
Overall, Brazilian cuisines are unique because they retain their characteristics, no matter if we consume the dishes in or outside Brazil. In other words, we always recognize the dishes as Brazilian dishes or not, simply from their aroma, taste, and other characteristics.