9 Signs You've Never Eaten Real Brazilian Food

by Gaía Passarelli Jan 14, 2015
1. You don’t know what “Brazilian food” actually means.

Okay, Brazilian food is kind of hard to describe. The country is so big, and the states and regions are so different from one another, that “Brazilian food” is a myth. What we have are several different cultures and cuisines: southern gauchos and churrasco (very similar to Argentinian and Uruguayan barbecue). Santa Catarina is known for its amazing seafood. Baianos mastered spicy African heritage dishes. Mineiros created feijoada. Northern riverside people have their countless ways of using manioc and fish. All are Brazilian, all are delicious.

2. You ignore the greatness of farofa.

Farofa is the queen of all food: a mix of farinha (flour, usually the corn or manioc variety) with everything else — dendê oil, shrimp, banana, bacon, eggs, herbs, whatever. It goes with (almost) everything, but especially with rice and beans (yes, we do love carbs!) or barbecue. Each region and house has its own versions and approaches. My favorite is farofa de banana.

3. You think avocado is only good with salads and sandwiches.

I think Brasil is the only country where avocado is consumed as a sweet treat. Children like it as a paste with sugar. Adults like it mixed with milk. With tomato and salt? Meh.

4. You never considered eating chicken hearts.

A barbecue classic in the south and southeast regions, sometimes served in espetinhos (“little sticks”). Should never be raw or overdone, but something in the middle. Delicious with farofa.

5. You think we use chimichurri.

Sometimes we do use the classic barbecue sauce, but in fact, it is an Argentinian creation. In Brazil, churrasco goes with farofa and something called vinagrete, made with onions, tomato and seasoning.

6. You’re not that creative with your pizza toppings.

Chicken heart pizza. Rice and beans pizza. Stroganoff pizza. True story. I dare you.

7. Your desserts are too big.

Brazilians have a sweet tooth. We love our sweets with a lot of sugar, whether they’re 100% Brazilian (Brigadeiro, a mix of chocolate and condensed milk), from our Portuguese heritage (quindim, made with egg yolks, coconut, and sugar), or imported from France (petit gateau is incredibly popular) or the US (cheesecakes). But we usually have small portions after a meal with a cup of coffee. Those huge pieces of cake you guys eat in America are scary.

8. What you’re drinking is chá-fé.

Brazilians like their coffee like they like love: strong and sweet. For me, one of the hardest parts of traveling to the US is living with that watered-down thing you have for coffee. We call it “tea coffee.” Glad there’s always espresso available.

9. You’re not used to weighing your food before eating.

Buffet food is called “self-service” (sometimes “serve-serve” — cute) and very often it’s of the quilo kind. It goes like this: you get in line, put the food you want on a plate, weigh it in a small weighing machine, and go ahead to sit down and eat. Sometimes there’s a small sweet treat as a “bonus.” You pay at the counter before leaving.

This is how food is served in a lot of places in São Paulo, Rio, and Minas Geraes — it’s a fast, cheap, and easy way to serve workers during lunch time. There are all sorts of quilos — the very cheap ones, where the best option is often the raw carrot salad, and the fancy, expensive kind with organic palm hearts and imported olive oil.

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