The cuisine of Brazil, the largest country on the continent of South America, is a melange of diverse cultural influences. The two most notable influences on Brazilian food came from the Portuguese, who arrived in the country in 1500, and from the slaves they brought from Africa shortly thereafter. Other ethnic influences include the Japanese, Germans, and Italians. One of the most iconic indigenous foods to Brazil, however, is the cassava, a tuber that is often made into cassava flour. Farofa, a Brazilian dish made of toasted cassava flour, bacon, onions, and herbs, is one of the most common recipes. Rice and beans are ubiquitous, served alongside various meat and seafood dishes. Popular street foods include acarajé (black eyed peas and onion fritters), bolinho de bacalhau (codfish balls), and pão de queijo (cheese bread buns). Many people across the world know Brazil for their barbecue, called churrasco.
The African Influence
African slaves introduced their culinary heritage to Brazil in the form of foods such as okra, palm oil, bananas, smoked fish, coconut and various spices. Vatapá, for instance, is a thick Brazilian stew with heavy ties to Africa. It is made with shrimp, bread, peanuts, palm oil, coconut milk, and a host of seasonings, and often served with rice. Quindim, also known as quindins, is a coconut egg custard, and an example of how African roots influenced Brazilian desserts.
The Portuguese Influence
While coconut may be an indicator of the African influence in Brazilian food, the egg custard part of quindim is indicative of the Portuguese and their love for egg yolks. Feijoada, one of Brazil’s favorite dishes, is a bean and meat stew that originally came from Portugal; the main difference is the type of beans used. One thing is for sure: When you bite into Brazilian cuisine, you’re tasting not just the food, but the country’s rich cultural history.