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When you think of Brazil, what comes to mind?
Well, at this precise moment in time, most people’s mind will turn to the football. With Rio hosting the 2014 World Cup, thousands upon thousands of football fans will be flocking to the Rio city streets to enjoy the beautiful game. But beauty here isn’t just in the way the Brazilians play football or just what’s found in the Amazon, or even the views from the top of Corcovado. It’s the actual people as well. “How do they all manage to look so good?” you wonder, “Do they ever eat?”
They do – a lot in fact. Brazilian meals are typically big and made up of several delicious parts. Examples of such meals include their famed BBQ and the ever-popular buffet. Well, they’re going to need it, what with all the football going on during the World Cup.
Now the real question is, if we eat what they eat, will we end up looking like them (and playing like them)? It’s worth a shot, and the perfect excuse for a trip to Brazil, on top of the football. of course. Here are the not-to-miss Brazilian foods to try on your quest to a Brazilian body (made for the beautiful game):
Mandioca is an essential Brazilian side made from the Brazilian plant, manioc root. Similar to yucca, or even potatoes, once peeled, mandioca can be boiled, fried or baked. You will see mandioca frita on most menus, which is similar to french fries.
But I prefer the simpler version, which you don’t always see on the menu (but you can ask for), baked with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Manioc can also be ground up into meal and used on top of rice, meat, and other dishes – this form of the manioc root is called Farofa.
Feijorda is often considered Brazil’s national dish (not officially, however). It is a stew made of beef, pork, and beans. There are restaurants throughout the country dedicated solely to this authentic dish, and other restaurants dedicate one day a week to serving only feijoada.
Pastels are made differently all over the world, but in Brazil they are flaky pastry envelopes stuffed with various fillings and then fried. They can be filled with meats, cheeses, or vegetables and eaten as a snack. Or they can be filled with sweet jams and eaten as a dessert. You can find these at buffets and on the street.
Churrasco is the famous Brazilian BBQ. The country is littered with churrascarias (aka steakhouses, or BBQ joints). If you want an authentic Brazilian experience, go to a churrascaria where a group of waiters walk around slicing meat straight from the skewer onto your plate until you fall into a food coma. Meats include pork, chicken, goat, and sausage links.
Acarajé can be found in the state of Bahia, where the Afro-Brazilian culture is prominent. Keep an eye out for women in big white dresses selling this very popular Brazilian street-food.
Acarajé is a fritter made from black-eyed peas and deep-fried to a crisp golden brown. They are then split in half and stuff with vatapá and caruru—thick, spicy pastes made with cassava, cashews and okra. Then fried shrimp and a salad of tomatoes, onions and cilantro are piled on and topped off with hot sauce made from malagueta peppers soaked in oil and vinegar.
Acai is one of the best tasting healthy foods out there, and not many people know that it comes from Brazil. The popular form of acai is sorbet, either in a little cup from carts on the street, or from a restaurant topped with granola and fruit.
Coxinhas are a popular street food in Brazil, but are also commonly on restaurant menus. They are a safe bet for someone who is a little hesitant to typical Brazilian meats. The crispy fried exterior surrounds a layer of soft dough filled with shredded seasoned chicken, and sometimes cheese as well (if you’re lucky).
Cachaca is the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil. It is the main ingredient in Brazil’s national drink – the Caipirinha – which is a must-try in Brazil. However, if you don’t like sugary drinks, you probably won’t like the Caipirinha. Just try the Cachaca on it’s own (it’s similar to rum), that’s the best part anyway.
Written by Maggie Parker, an actress and NYC-based writer, specialising in travel and entertainment.
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Thanks to Jun Sieta, keetr, fczuardi, Fotos Gov/Ba, estrelas e limons, BenjaminThompason, J-Cornelius, Thomas Locke Hobbs, and randal-schwartz for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.