Given the fact that German, Italian, Ukrainian, Polish, and then eventually Dutch, Syrians, Lebanese, English, and Japanese immigrants came to land in Paraná and Santa Catarina, it's hard to know which native dishes existed before their arrival. It's assumed that early on the folk ate the fish that inhabited the nearby waters—one of the most favorable being the tainha. This fish is best when caught between April and July, when the waters are still warm. It can be prepared in multiple ways, but tainha na telha is fairly popular. The stew called barreado is another regional dish that has long stood the test of time. It's not clear as to when this dish first came to be, but it continues to be the most on-point representative of the south, pre-immigration.
The European, Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrants to the region adapted the area's cuisine to their own tastes. Germans, for example, grew cabbage and potatoes, raised pigs, and made butter and cheese, much as Germans did all over the world. The same can be said of the Italian immigrants who introduced cornmeal to Brazil.
Brazil is a country forged of its own traditions but also welcoming of others, creating a cuisine that is distinctly local yet at the same time worldly.
What to Eat From South Brazil
Arroz de Carreteiro: Fried rice meets risotto, Brazilian style: Garlic, onions, and rice are fried in oil with small pieces of hydrated charque (the South American version of jerky), then slowly simmered until cooked through.
Barreado: This dish is cooked in a "panela de barro," or clay pot, whose lid is sealed shut by a glue made of flour and water. Beef is cooked with a mixture of liquefied tomato and onions, garlic, and small pieces of bacon for many hours, then served with rice, plantains, and farofa.
Churrasco: The essential Brazilian barbecue. It usually happens Sunday, late afternoon. Meat is marinated with just plain rock salt or milk, Cognac, or cachaça and includes cuts like top sirloin cap and bottom sirloin, which are served with grilled chicken hearts, homemade salsa, and lots of cachaça and beer.
Tainha na Telha: Local fish stuffed with small shrimp, onions, manioc flour, and black olives and topped with fried potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and olives.
10 Brazilian Treats I Dream About
My family background is Brazilian, and every time I go back to Brazil I seek out these unique treats. If you go, take my advice and sample theseyou'll be that much more Brazilian for it:
- Guaraná: Try the Antarctica brand of this fruity, sweet soda. Sip it down along with a Sunday churrasco.
- Açaí Bowl: Go to the corner juice store and ask for the following: copo de açaí com banana y granola. You'll eat one every day you're in Brazil and, if you could, for the rest of your life.
- Requeijão: The cream cheese of Brazil, but slightly creamier. Have it for breakfast on toasted French bread, or as an afternoon snack.
- Sonho de Valsa: The name translates as "dream of the waltz," and when you bite into this bonbon—a milk chocolate–covered wafer with a peanutty nougat filling—you'll be dancing all right.
- Pão de Queijo: These bite-size cheese breads are addictive and divine. They're often served before a meal or as a snack.
- Brigadeiro: The chocolate truffle of Brazil. It's made with condensed milk and powdered chocolate and generally rolled in chocolate sprinkles. Addictive.
- Caipirinha: This cachaça-based drink is traditionally made with limes and sugar—and lots of it. But these days it's mixed with lychee, kiwi, passion fruit, strawberries, mango, pineapple, or even grapes.
- Romeo e Julieta: This Brazilian flavor duo is generally served as a slice of guava paste with queijo Minas (fresh cheese, comparable to a mozzarella), but it has also become a popular ice cream flavor.
- Pipoca com Leite Condensado: This combination of popcorn with condensed milk can be found at shopping malls, or you can easily make it at home. I call it the South American kettle popcorn.
- Cafezinho: This translates as "little coffees," or the Brazilian version of an espresso. When I'm in Brazil I probably consume twice as much coffee as I usually do. —C.S.N.