If all of the ingredients and flavor combinations present in Brazilian food make your mouth water, consider stocking up on some pantry essentials that will help you delve into creating the cuisine at home. While much of the dishes are based on fresh fish, meat, and vegetable, there are some staple ingredients that are relatively easy to get your hands on. Click through to start building your Brazilian pantry.
Photo: Susannah Chen
For a country as large as Brazil, it's no surprise that each region has its own traditional recipes and dishes. Regional cuisines have been influenced over time by immigrants and what natural crops are available to them. In the North, you will find caruru, a dish featuring okra, onions, shrimp, peanuts, and palm oil, and in the South, you'll be able to sit down to a plate of lasagna. The Northeast enjoys a stew that has been made for 300 years, while the Southeast is more accustomed to meals featuring rice and beans. Regardless of all of the differences, all of the different cuisines sound fresh and flavorful. Find out some basic Brazilian dishes and ingredients when you keep reading.
Have you ever possessed a cookbook that's occupied a lot of time in your mind, but not so much in your kitchen? I spent hours reading the recipes in The Brazilian Kitchen by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, but it was nearly a year before I finally got around to making them.
It took some patience researching ingredients such as dendê oil and locating the most reliable and affordable places to buy them online. But ultimately, my efforts paid off, because there's nothing more rewarding than getting acquainted with unfamiliar cuisines.
This traditional stew is a staple in Brazil's Bahia, a northeastern coastal state that's heavily influenced by African and European cultures. Moqueca is typically made with seafood, but this milder version has plantains and chicken that's been slow-simmered until it's fall-off-the-bone tender. Don't be afraid of Bahia's most comforting dish; continue reading for the recipe.
A recent preoccupation with Brazilian recipes has led me to discover a number of South American pantry staples that aren't commonly used in the United States. Manioc starch is one of those; this powdery, flour-like ingredient comes from the cassava (also known as yucca or mandioca). In many tropical countries, this root vegetable gets pressed in order to make cassava meal, thereby releasing starchy juices that, when dried, is called manioc starch.
In Brazil, the starch comes in two forms: polvilho doce, or sweet manioc starch, is made from fresh juice; polvilho azedo, or sour manioc starch, is the byproduct of fermented manioc juice. Both are crucial ingredients to making the culture's famous cheese bread. (Don't confuse it with manioc flour, a more coarsely ground version.) Manioc starch can also be used as a thickening agent in gravies or sauces, a gluten-free replacement in baked goods, and in desserts such as banana poe. Have you ever cooked with cassava?
In an age when grocery shelves are stocked with everything from toasted sesame oil to coconut oil, here's a relative unknown that you may have never heard of: dendê oil.
This oil, which has a distinctive orangey-red color and a thick, somewhat opaque consistency, is a recurring ingredient in the cuisines of Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Bahia, a northeastern region in Brazil. There, the very rich, nutty flavor of dendê oil, or azeite de dendê, as Brazilians call it, is used to flavor fritters, sauces, and stews.
The ingredient is derived from the fleshy fruit pulp of the dendê palm tree and shouldn't be confused with palm kernel oil, which is extracted from the fruit's pit. Although it's high in saturated fat, dendê is prized for its antioxidants and fatty acids, and maintains a long shelf life. Have you ever cooked with red palm oil?
"At first it was the gays, then the straights, for the chest and the back," a wax technician tells Salon. "But now, many straight men come to me for the full Brazilian." Then it gets creepy. "Guys think that since they're naked, you're gonna give them head," another technician confessed.
The male Brazilian, when a man waxes his highly sensitive nether region, has become a bit of a rare luxury these days, perhaps because of the recession. But for the technicians who perform the hair removal ritual (and they're almost always women), the men who do come can put them in sticky situations. One man "got really aggressive," explained another worker, "and kept insisting that I perform certain favors on him." So she "tazed him in the thigh. He fell right off the table." When the men aren't sexually harassing their waxers, they might be requesting random shapes like a whale or the words "Campbell Soup."
Do you think hairless men are worth all this trouble?
After I found myself drooling over CasaSugar's steak frites, I realized I was long overdue to make a large, juicy chunk of beef for dinner. That's when I remembered an interesting recipe I'd come across for a steak marinated in cachaça, the national liquor of Brazil. Although the meat should sit in this marinade for a couple of days, the prep is minimal, which makes this recipe an overall piece of cake.
A week later, I'm still waxing poetic about the dish and its bold, robust flavor; if you've ever had Chinese drunken chicken, this steak possesses the same booziness factor. Ask your butcher to give you the flattest, thinnest hanger steak he has; it'll make for a more even-cooking, attractive piece of meat. For a different steak dinner, keep on reading.
Although I love to sip more than one beverage at a time, I didn't want too many drinks crowding the table at Easter brunch, so I settled on a holiday tipple that did double duty as part morning joe, part festive cocktail. This quick and simple libation makes use of cachaça, a sugarcane liquor that's similar to rum and wildly popular in Brazil. When combined with chilled espresso and sweetened, condensed milk, it tastes like an espresso martini, only less lethal. A sprinkle of cinnamon adds layer of nutty flavor. Jive with a twist on java when you read more.
Some skills, like brain surgery and kidney transplantation, require doctors with years of training behind them. And although I know having your nether regions waxed within an inch of
its your life should only be handled by a professional, I'm doubting this professional needs to have a PhD in waxing. Perhaps the Brazilian has gotten more complicated since the first — and last — time I got one.
It may be the dead of Winter, but this past weekend, San Francisco felt like pure Summer, with clear skies and balmy temperatures. I decided to celebrate with a drink that couldn't be more appropriate: the Caipirinha.
This drink, is made with limes, as well as a special liquor called cachaça, which incidentally happens to be the national liquor of Brazil. Over the past five years, cachaça has developed a large fan base in the United States. Like rum, it's made from sugarcane, but while rum is made from distilled molasses, cachaça is the product of fermented sugarcane juice. To make this cocktail, you can choose any brand, but I used Água Luca ($28.99), a premium variety of cachaça that's filtered a whopping 12 times.
On the nose, it resembles tequila, and it has a light, clean flavor with a slightly sweet finish. Although Água Luca can easily be enjoyed by itself on the rocks, its sweet-tart flavor is incredible when used in a caipirinha. To transport your palate to Brazil, read more