The Culinary Landscape of Southern Brazil
Churrascarias are most widely found in southern Brazil. In fact, the region is known almost exclusively for this type of restaurant and service, which other countries largely regard as the truest representation of Brazilian cuisine. Gauchos, or cattle farmers from Rio Grande do Sul, have numerous preferred methods of cooking their meat, but the most traditional approach simply uses rock salt (sal grosso) to marinate the meat before grilling it.
The Tropeiro, or cattle drivers in the late 1700s, were the first to develop this style of cooking, which placed skewers in the ground to allow the meat to grill slowly next to the heat from a fire – the same fire they would use to warmth every night. These cowboys would serve themselves by slicing meat directly from the skewers, thus giving birth to what we now know today as the art of churrasco.
Because the region has seen such heavy influence from the likes of Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Syria and even England, native dishes are difficult to pinpoint, but those with fish are presumed to be the most authentic. One of the most popular fish in the region is the tainha, which can be prepared and enjoyed in several different ways. Barreado, a traditional stew, is another popular dish from this region that has been enjoyed for centuries.
Arroz Carreteiro: Fried rice meets risotto in this Brazilian-style dish. Garlic, onions and rice are first fried in oil with small bits of hydrated charque (a South American jerky), then slowly simmered until cooked through.
Barreado: This dish is cooked in a “panela de barro,” or clay pot, with its lid sealed shut by a paste made of flour and water. The beef is cooked in a mixture of tomato and onions, garlic and small bits of bacon for many hours, then served with rice, plantains and farofa.
Churrasco: The essential Brazilian barbecue experience! Brazilian Churrasco is prepared over an open flame and utilizes a variety of grilled meats, seasonings and sauces. Churrasco is traditionally served table-side (also known as “espeto corrido”), where servers/gauchos carry different cuts of meat around the room and serve for a customer’s choosing.
Tainha na Telha: This local fish dish stuffed with small shrimp, onions, manioc flour and black olives and often topped with fried potatoes, onions, tomatoes and olives.
Picanha: Picanha is a cut of beef that is special to this region of Brazil. Cut from the top of the sirloin and containing a layer of fat, the meat is seasoned with rock salt and traditionally grilled over an open flame.
Papaya: Brazil is the largest grower and exporter of this tropical fruit, which has a firm outside and soft inside. Of course, one of the best-loved regional papaya concoctions is the “crème de papaya,” which consists of the fruit blended with ice cream and topped with crème de cassis, a sweet, black currant liqueur.
Polenta: While polenta originates from northern and central Italy, the cornmeal dish holds a special place in the hearts of many Southern Brazilians. Cornmeal can be boiled, eaten as porridge or, once solidified into loaf form, grilled, baked or fried.