Sunday, 10 April 2011

A Taste of Brazil - Part 1

What I knew about Brazilian food before my recent work trip to Sao Paulo could be written on the back of a stamp. In large writing. What I now know about Brazilian food can be written in two blog posts with a few photos.

The various breads, cakes and pastries served as breakfast were definitely to my liking. I particularly enjoyed the banana-filled bread, corn cake, and bread filled with dulce de leche.

Other breakfast treats included the ubiquitous pao de queijo. The trick is to wait for a fresh batch of these cheesy bread balls to be served at the buffet before pouncing!

Like many other countries, but sadly not Britain, lunch is taken very seriously in Brazil i.e. a proper sit down meal is the norm. Many lunch places are buffets or buffets augmented with cooked to order food. As there are throngs of office workers at these places, the buffet doesn't get too tired and wilted. In fact, there seems to be none of the stigma that can be attached to buffets elsewhere.

A typical lunch might consist of a self-serve helping of salad, feijao com arroz (rice and beans), and fried eggs. And as if by magic, when you return to your table, mixed platters of fried chicken, bbq beef brisket, pork loin and ribs are waiting to be devoured. Better than a sarnie, that's for sure!

I also went for a buffet, one night for dinner, as it's a good way to sample a wide range of food when dining solo. For a fixed price of R$23 (£9), you can order drinks from the bar up to this value as well as tuck into the buffet for 'free'.

As you can see, there was a lot of meat including beef skewers, ribs, fried chicken and sausages. However, it was croquette corner that grabbed my attention. The bacalhau croquettes were my favourite.

The city's Italian food is also very good, which should come as no surprise as Sao Paulo is Italian in the same way that Boston is Irish, if you catch my drift. I enjoyed pizza from wood-fired ovens as well as pasta with a local twist of being mixed in with bacalhau.

Regrettably, I didn't get a chance to go to Liberdade, Sao Paulo's Japanese quarter, but suffice to say, the sushi and sashimi that I did sample was very good.

As good as the food in this post is, I'm afraid you're going to have to wait for Part 2 for the really good stuff such as feijoada and churrascaria. Excited? You should be.

Postscript: A friend of mine expressed surprise that I ate salad in Brazil, as he believes their tap water isn't safe enough for vegetables to be washed in. He kind of has a point as I only drank bottled water in Brazil. That said, I think his point of view is over-cautious and offensive. Or to quote the exact words I used in the pub, I told him that he was being a complete knob.

The irony of it all is that my friend has the cojones to climb Kilimanjaro, yet is scared shitless by the thought of eating lettuce in Brazil. Anyway, what do you think? Am I being harsh? Or is my mate right to fear salad in certain countries? Vote Now!

Would you eat salad in Brazil?

Thank you for voting!


  1. I don't think he was being a knob at all.

    Climbing Kili takes courage, certainly. And training, stamina, together with a decent guide and team. But, for most people, it's not actually risky. One might not get to the top. And one risks altitude sickness, which one can't predict or easily train against.

    But gastro illnesses from food in countries where water sanitation standards are not as high as ours are a common problem for travellers whose digestive systems are not used to those local parasites and germs.

    It's a real waste of a trip to be chained to the hotel bathroom for a day or more, sometimes even a few.

    That said, I don't know whether Brazil's water sanitation is good or bad, I've never researched it myself.

  2. I was actually eating salads when in Ho Chi Minh and it didn't occur to me until my viet friend mentioned that he was surprised that I did. Is hard to say but I prObably wouldn't touch tap water if it was really well known not to. Sounds like you had a great time. Can't wait for post 2.

  3. Maybe my stomach is cast iron as I've never had any problems with salads in foreign climes.
    I think Brasilian food is very unknown outside of Brasil. When you consider it is the size of a continent that variety must be amazing.

  4. The food looks great, especially that meat filled pastry in the breakfast shot. I have looked a little bit into Brazillian food, and I remember there being some amazing place in Brasilia that used native river fish and weed that gave you a mild electric shock (tingle?). What struck me most was that there was a fish big enough to serve spare ribs from...

    As for the $6m salad question, I dunno, I tend to eat salad, but I have been hit with a pretty virulent case of food poisoning in both Vietnam and Morrocco so maybe it;s not such a good idea. Mind you, I survived 3 months in India with nary an upset so who knows?

  5. This is nicely timed, as a Brazilian cafe recently opened at the end of my road! Haven't been yet, planning to check it out some afternoon this week.

  6. On a general point about the salad question, I would say that you should consider the quality of the place where you're eating at, rather than the country you're in. For example, most of my meals were in clean modern eateries in Sao Paulo's business district - as such I was highly unlikely to contract food poisoning. And that's why my mate's comments got my hackles up - as he was inferring that Brazil was in someway backwards.

    Kavey - I hope the general comment above clarifies my POV and I am not in anyway making light of the problems associated with poor water sanitation.

    Kay - I had summer rolls, raw herbs put into Pho, and salad toppings in Bun, whilst in Vietnam, and I also lived to tell the tale!

    Mzungu - lucky you! The only times, I've had food poisoning have been in the UK and in Australia, which just goes to show! I think I just touched the tip of the iceberg, when it came to Brazilian grub. It's defo one that I'd like to eat more of.

    Gworm - Great facts, and it's a shame that I didn't have longer to explore Brazilian cuisine. The fish ribs, in particular, interest me!

    Kake - tell me more after you've been!

  7. Hi Mr Noodles, My husband is brazilian, and I've been to brazil a few times. Never got sick from eating salads (from ""proper"restaurants, not little joints in poorer neighbourhoods), I tend to stick to tomatoes and palm hearts. This is despite me having quite a weak stomach - I caught stomach bugs in Barcelona, Milan and Paris!!

    I love Brazilian food in Brazil, but it's never the same, not even close, outside Brazil. Every time we go to Brazilian restaurants in London, My husband always complains, about quality of beef, generosity, hospitality, quality of cooking, quality of cachaca, coldness of beer, etc, etc...

    LOVE your blog btw.

  8. Salads in Brazil - no worries... It isn't India!

    I think you know when you shouldn't eat salads, it is the kind of country where you feel like carrying hand sanitizer and babywipes. Brazil ain't that place. Bolivia is.

  9. OMG Sung, I can't believe you went to my home town and never told me before you left! You don't seem to have been short of good places to eat which is good, and glad you like the local cuisine. Tell your friend that I cannot wait to go to Brazil and drink tap water, it surely tastes one hundred times better than Thames water and I grew up on the stuff! Has he been to Brazil? Sao Paulo is a major world City, I am surprised by his remark.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  10. Fang - welcome! I definitely got the feeling that Brazilian food is best on its home terrain. In particular, the beef is different class.

    Tom - That's exactly what I said to my mate, you 'play' the salad not the country.

    Luiz - My trip was a bit last minute and with the long working hours, I'm not sure I would've made best use of any recs! That said, next time I go, I will be sure to give you a call. Although I ate well, I get the feeling I only scratched the surface.

    RE: my friend, if you met him then you wouldn't be surprised. Although he's a friend, he does have a tendency to come out with complete bollocks on subjects that he knows little of!