Cultured Palate: International Dishes from Brazil
If you’ve been dreaming of an escape, Brazil may be calling your name. With an average yearly temperature of 77° and diverse regions that include beaches, rainforests, mountains, and savannas, Brazil is a place that’s unsurprisingly diverse in its population as well. As a result, their culinary tradition has evolved to encompass a vast variety of different dishes, including European, African, and even Asian influences.
If you travel to Brazil, make sure to check out a few of these dishes. Brazilians love to eat and the more you know before you go, the easier it will be for you to fill your belly with amazing and authentic cuisine.
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1. Pão de queijo
One of the most popular snack foods in Brazil is pão de queijo — tiny cheese buns made with cassava starch which originally came to Brazil via African slaves in the 19th century.
While they’re found in many groceries stores throughout the country, the best pão de queijo are either homemade or bought from a bakery. You can also find excellent pão de queijo sold on the street, where it can be bought as a cheap and easy snack. Eat them on their own or with a cup of coffee, but watch out — it’s impossible to eat just one.
A typical Brazilian condiment that can be found on tables all over the country is vinagrete, a salsa-like concoction that’s made of chopped veggies (mostly tomatoes, onion, and peppers) tossed with vinegar, oil, and salt. Unlike the vinaigrette we know in North America, the Brazilian vinagrete refers to the entire dish, rather than just the dressing.
One of the reasons why it’s so popular is because it provides a much-needed palate cleanser during meat-heavy Brazilian meals, and can be spooned on top of almost any dish to give it a bit of extra flavor.
A dish that’s most often found on buffet tables, salpicão is a classic Brazilian salad that’s known for being either amazing or truly awful, depending on who made it.
At its heart, salpicão is a basic chicken salad, made with shredded chicken, peas, corn, and fruit, dressed with a mayonnaise dressing and topped with fried shoestring potatoes. If it’s made well, the salad is a perfect balance of sweet and savory, but if it’s made poorly, it can easily turn into a mayonnaise-loaded disaster. Look for salpicão that’s light on dressing and made with fresh veggies, rather than frozen.