The Culinary Landscape of Northern Brazil
Dishes in northern Brazil are mostly influenced by the native Indians who once lived in the region before the Portuguese ever set foot in the country. Thanks in large part to their isolated location and wild surroundings, the northern Amazonian states’ cuisine has remained relatively the same over the years, despite the outside influence and evolution of flavors in other parts of the country. Manioc, a root vegetable, is still widely used to make flour, which, in turn is used to make pirão, a dense, almost gruel-like concoction made by combining manioc flour into a fish- or meat-based broth. Pirão has been a uniquely Brazilian staple for many years. Manioc starch (polvilho doce), on the other hand, is often used to bake crackers and breads, like the perennial favorite pão de queijo, also known as cheesy bread.
Likely the best-known product to stem from northern Brazil is the acaí berry. This “superfood” was recently introduced in the United States and has since become a must-have addition to yogurt, smoothies and even liqueur. Some studies have even shown that acaí berries are even richer in antioxidants than cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. This portion of the country is also home to the cashew fruit cajú, the creamy white cupuaçu and the tart acerola. Don’t be surprised to see any of these unique flavors pop up in ice cream, fresh juices or even a Caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil.
Açaí: A “superfruit” most often enjoyed as a sorbet-like breakfast or snack, served blended with banana and topped with granola.
Bombom de Cupuaçu: A milk chocolate-covered bonbon made from condensed milk and the creamy superfruit cupuaçu, which has the flavor profile of bananas and pears.
Guarana: A berry used in energy drinks, herbal teas and to produce the national soda of Brazil, which is called Guaraná.
Pimenta: Used to add a bit of a kick to native dishes, pimenta is comprised of pungent peppers bottled in oil.
Pudim de Tambaqui: A soufflé-like fish dish made with eggs and topped with a shrimp sauce.
Surubim: The Brazilian catfish that can grow to 80 pounds, surubim is often smoked or grilled and served with rice and pirão, a manioc flour-based mush (similar to polenta).
Tacacá: A soup made from tucupi broth (extracted from manioc root), salted jumbo prawns, jambu (like watercress) and tapioca gum.