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After living in Brazil for 6 months as part of my year abroad, I can safely say that I have got to know Brazilian foods pretty well (I like to eat, a lot!) Here are my top four personal foodie favourites that have surprised me with their tasty brilliance.
Açaí na tigela (which literally means ‘açaí in the bowl’) is a smoothie made from frozen and mashed açaí berries. Açaí berries come from the Brazilian açaí palm, they are small, black-purple, round berries that were first cultivated by Brazilians of indigenous ancestry. Studies show that to some populations in Brazil, the açaí palm is by far the most important plant species, because the berries make up a major component of their diet, and up to 42% of their total food intake by weight. More recently however, many more people have taken an interest in these fruits, by and large because of their amazing health benefits. Described as ‘superberries’, açaí fruits are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Seeing as açaí is such a big part of the Brazilian healthy-eating scene, imagine my delighted surprise when I first asked for an açaí na tigela completa at the beach, and I was greeted by a large smoothie, that tasted somewhat like fruity chocolate ice cream, and came topped with (as per tradition) banana, granola, and condensed milk! Muito gostoso!
If you know any Portuguese, you’ll know by now that ‘Coração de Frango’ means ‘Chicken Hearts.’ And no, it isn’t just an odd name for something; I’m literally talking about grilling lots and lots of tiny chicken hearts on a skewer, over a traditional coal Churrasco (barbecue), smothering them in lemon or lime, and devouring them. Trust me, I know that you are most likely disgusted and horrified at this image, because that’s how I felt too- at first. Then I took the plunge and just tried one… and they were actually really nice! Once you get past the fact that you are eating a heart, you realise that they are actually perfect bite-size chunks of tasty meat, and you can’t help but pop one, or two, or three more into your mouth. By the end of the evening, you are the Jeffrey Dahmer of poultry, but you have no regrets. I can only imagine how terrible this must sound, but if you go to Brazil, you just simply have to try one- its tradition! And I promise you you’ll never look back.
In England, even just the word ‘tapioca’ can make someone shudder, bringing back memories of pushing that tapioca pudding around their bowls in the old school canteen, studying its frog spawn like consistency with disgust. Described by The Guardian as “Britain’s most hated school pudding” its safe to say that tapioca doesn’t have the best reputation here. In Brazil however, it’s surprisingly good! You see, instead of making their tapioca into a pudding, Brazilians traditionally use the tapioca flour to make beiju, also known as Brazilian Crêpes.
To make beiju the tapioca flour is moistened and sieved, then sprinkled onto a hot griddle or pan, where it is then fused into a flatbread, which resembles a grainy pancake. Then it is buttered and eaten as a toast, or it can be filled or topped with either salgados (savoury topping choices such as cheese, bacon, ham, and other meats) or doces (sweet topping choices such as coconut, chocolate, and fruits.) My personal surprisingly tasty favourite was a tapioca filled with mozzarella cheese and guava jam! Sounds ridiculous? That’s what I thought, but it was actually delicious!
Pão de queijo are small, baked, very cheesy bread rolls, that are traditionally eaten for breakfast all over Brazil. Okay so, cheese, bread, what’s not to love? I guess its hardly ‘surprising’ that these snacks are so absolutely wonderful; but I was surprised by how annoyingly accessible they are! A bag of around six mini pão de queijo usually sells for nearly $2 Brazilian Reais, which is the equivalent to about 40 pence, and they are sold, freshly baked, in every almost shop, street kiosk, and bus terminal around- I just can’t get away from them! I will put my hand on my heart and say that I am truly addicted to the heavenly goodness that is buying and tucking into a yummy batch of pão de queijo, and if I came back from my year abroad morbidly obese, then these little lovelies were the main reason for it.
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham