Brazil has become home to settlers from all over the world since the first group arrived from Africa in 1538. As a result it has a unique and diverse cuisine which is impossible to define in detail. But, it is possible to divide the different regions by the type of food which is most commonly consumed there so this should offer you a quick insight into some of the native specialties.
In the north or the region known as Amazonia, the principal groups who settled were the native Indians or a group of people of mixed Indian and Portuguese origins. Traditionally they survive on a diet of fish, root vegetables, yams and tropical fruits. One popular dish which you will find in the north is Caruru do Para which consists of shrimp, onion, tomato, okra, cilantro and dende oil all cooked together in one pot.
The north-east, which includes the State of Bahia, is a predominantly African region and the cuisine here is Afro-Bahian. This is an unusual combination which includes traditional African, Indian and Portuguese dishes which use ingredients which are available locally. So, in the coastal areas of this region seafood and shellfish are most popular and are generally of extremely high quality.
In the central west the most common ingredients used are fish from the rivers as well as beef and pork from the huge ranches which dominate the region. Again the emphasis is on produce which is readily available in the area so the crops of soybean, rice and corn are also a very important part of the daily diet.
In the southeast, which includes Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, several distinctive styles of cooking can be sampled. One of the most popular dishes in both cities is a bean and meat concoction of Bahian origin – feijoada completa. Another favourite is arroz-feijao which is made using rice and beans. In Sao Paulo you will also notice the influence that the European and North African immigrants have had on the cuisine – don’t worry it’s a good one, the food in the city is excellent.
Finally, in the south of the country you will find the national cuisine of the gaucho or cowboy as well as dishes influenced by the German settlers who arrived in the region some centuries ago. Understandably, meat is high on the list of priority ingredients here but if you’re not a fan potatoes and the native manioc are also extremely popular.