Brazilian food is nice and cheap, as compared to
Europe and North America. São Paulo offers all kinds of international cuisine.
One should be careful with some highly spiced typical Brazilian dishes.
São Paulo city has above twelve thousand restaurants,
with more than fifty types of cuisine from all over the world. Seething
cauldron of styles and cultures with more than 70 nationalities, it is possible
to find in São Paulo special places with strong foreign influence – such as
“Mooca” and “Bexiga” (which are Italian migrants neighborhoods) and “Bairro da
Liberdade” (which harbors the world's largest Japanese community outside of
Japan). In Liberdade, one cannot miss to try the best sushi and sashimi in
Special ethnic foods and restaurants that are
frequently found in Brazil include Arab cuisine (Lebanese and Syrian), local
variations of Chinese cuisine, Italian cuisine, and Japanese cuisine (sushi
bars are a constant in major metropolises).
There is not an exact single "national
Brazilian cuisine", but there is an assortment of various regional
traditions and typical dishes. This diversity is linked to the origins of the
people inhabiting each region. For instance, the culinary in Bahia is heavily
influenced by a mix of African, Indigenous and Portuguese cuisines. Chili
(including chili sauces) and palm oil are very common. But in the Northern
states, due to the abundance of forest and freshwater rivers, fish and cassava
are staple foods. In the deep south like Rio Grande do Sul, the influence
shifts more towards gaúcho traditions shared with its neighbors Argentina and
Uruguay, with many meat based products, due to this region livestock based
economy – the churrasco, a kind of barbecue, is a local tradition.
Brazilian cuisine has European, African and
Amerindian influences. The European immigrants (primarily from Portugal, Italy,
Spain, Germany, Poland and Switzerland) were accustomed to a wheat-based diet,
and introduced wine, leaf vegetables, and dairy products into Brazilian
cuisine. When potatoes were not available they discovered how to use the native
sweet manioc as a replacement. Enslaved Africans also had a role in developing
Brazilian cuisine, especially in the coastal states. The foreign influence
extended to later migratory waves – Japanese immigrants brought most of the
food items that Brazilians would associate with Asian cuisine today, and
introduced large-scale aviaries, well into the 20th century.
The basis of Brazilian daily cuisine is a
combination of starch (most often a cereal),
protein and vegetable combination. There is a differentiation between
vegetables of the “verduras” group, or greens, and the “legumes” group
(no relation to the botanic concept), or non-green vegetables. Salads, grilled
chicken or bovine meat, rice and beans are common in everyday Brazilian meals. Due
to Italian and Japanese influence, Brazilians usually eat pasta (including spaghetti,
and bīfun). Pizza is also extremely popular. At
restaurants, it is usually made in a wood-fire oven with a thin, flexible
crust, little or very little sauce, and a number of interesting toppings.
Brazilian hotels offer a generous breakfast (“café
da manhã”). Its price is usually included in the daily fares. It is common to
find a choice of tropical fruits, typical cakes, yogurt, ham, cheese, scrambled
eggs, croissants, several types of bread, honey, jam, coffee, tea, milk.
Some typical dishes are “feijoada” (a black bean
and meat stew rooted), considered the country's national dish; and regional
foods such as vatapá, moqueca and acarajé. In São Paulo, a typical dish is “virado
à paulista”, made with rice, “tutu de feijão” (black bean paste), sauteed kale,
and pork. São Paulo is also the home of “pastel”, a food consisting of thin
pastry envelopes wrapped around assorted fillings, then deep fried in vegetable
oil. It is a common belief that they originated when Japanese immigrants
adapted the recipe of fried spring rolls to sell as snacks at weekly street
Brazil has a variety of candies such as brigadeiros
(chocolate fudge balls), cocada (a coconut sweet), beijinhos (coconut truffles
and clove) and romeu e julieta (cheese with a guava jam known as goiabada).
Peanuts are used to make several candies called paçoca, rapadura and
pé-de-moleque. Local common fruits like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, cocoa,
cashew, guava, orange, passionfruit, pineapple, and hog plum are turned in
juices and used to make jams, chocolates, popsicles and ice cream ("sorvete").
The national beverage is coffee. It is usually
taken during breakfast, after meals at at any other occasion – frequently
several times a day. Brazilian coffee is usually strong.
Cachaça is Brazil's native liquor. Cachaça is distilled from
sugar cane and is the main ingredient in the national cocktail, caipirinha
(cachaça, lemon juice and sugar). Common cachaça is transparent like vodka and
equally strong. It is also called aguardente (‘fire water’). Aged
cachaça is infinitely more palatable and practically a different drink: it’s
rich, golden and reminiscent of a fine brandy.
Brazilian beer tends to be much lighter and sweeter
than the European counterparts and it is always served ice cold. Brazilian
wines are not world famous, but you may be willing to try those produced in Rio
Grande do Sul or in São
Yes, you can find coca-cola, pepsi-cola, soda and
other common soft drinks in Brazil; but only here you can find “guarana”, a
fizzy beverage made from the berry of the same name and which varies from state
Brazil has a great selection of fruit juices. Coconut
water, which is incredibly healthy and a great hangover cure, is also very
popular. At beaches you can usually find fresh coconut water, that you drink
from the coconut itself, using a straw; at other places, you can find the
industrial version – tasty, but not so healthy.
All major fast-food international chains can be
found in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. There are also many “lanchonetes”, where
you have a choice of snacks. In
São Paulo, the best snack is served in “padarias” (bakeries).
The regular Brazilian restaurant where there is a
specific price for each meal is called "restaurante à la carte". A
simple and usually inexpensive Brazilian restaurant option, which is also
advisable for vegetarians, is “comida por quilo” (literally "food by kilo
value"), a self-service buffet where food is paid for by weight.
Rodízio is a common style of service, in which a
prix fixe is paid, and servers circulate with food. This is common in
churrascarias (barbecue restaurants) and pizzerias, resulting in an
all-you-can-eat meat barbecue and pizzas of varied flavours.
Although many traditional dishes are prepared with
meat or fish, it is not difficult to live on vegetarian food as well, at least
in the mid-sized and larger cities of Brazil. There is a rich supply of all
kinds of fruits and vegetables and products made of soy.
In the 2000s, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have
gained several vegetarian and vegan restaurants. However, outside big cities,
vegetarianism is not very common in the country. Not every restaurant will
provide a choice of vegetarian dishes.