24 September 2012
Last updated at 14:03
Brazil's rich gastronomy reflects its history. Over the centuries, indigenous dishes were mixed with those of the Portuguese settlers and the Africans who arrived as slaves. It results in the many snacks and treats to be found on Brazil's streets today, such as these bolinhos de bacalhau or codfish fritters, a Portuguese dish. (All images by Berg Silva, words by Julia Carneiro)
The food from Bahia, in the northeast, reflects the African influence most strongly, in typical recipes such as the acaraje, a popular street food snack.
The fried snack is stuffed with dried shrimps and vatapa and caruru, which are pastes made from dried shrimp, bread, cashews, palm oil and okra. Nega Teresa has had a popular acaraje stand in Santa Teresa, Rio, for 20 years. "Acaraje is a very old tradition, but the best are the family recipes," she says.
"Up to this day, Rio still is the most Portuguese city in Brazil. We have this strong tradition of botequins (informal bars) and most of them have a Portuguese origin," says journalist Alice Granato, author of Flavours of Brazil.
Sandra Ribeiro (left) and Marcia Xavier have visited Portugal, but every Saturday in Cadeg they shape 3,000 bolinhos de bacalhau, made with codfish, potatoes, eggs, parsley and olive oil. "It's almost more Brazilian than Portuguese, because every place serves them," says Ms Ribeiro.
Born in Portugal, Carlos Ernesto Cadavez arrived in Brazil when he was two. To continue with the traditions of his birthplace, he started a weekly Portuguese party in a fruit and vegetable market, Cadeg, 15 years ago. Every Saturday, guests dine on grilled sardines, salted codfish and Portuguese wine and hear live folk music.
The moqueca marries the fresh fish prized by native Brazilians to the Portuguese tradition of stews, along with an ingredient brought from Africa - palm oil - and manioc flour, another indigenous flavour used to make the side dish pirao.
Moqueca is a stew cooked with onions, peppers, tomato and fish or seafood. The typical recipe from Bahia includes palm oil and coconut milk, and sometimes bananas, like this version served in Aconchego Carioca, a restaurant in Rio. "It's one of Brazil's oldest dishes, and people care so much for it that its origin is disputed," says sous-chef Bianca Lopes.
In Brazil, barbecues are often lit for social meetings, birthdays, celebrations. There are popular all-you-can-eat restaurants where large slabs of meat are brought to the table on skewers - as in Fogo de Chao, which started in southern Rio Grande do Sul and grew into an international chain.
Barbecuing meat on large ground fires comes from indigenous groups as the guarani and charruas, from Brazil's south, says sociologist Carlos Doria. "In other regions of Brazil, people ate salted beef. There were cattle only in Rio Grande do Sul, so there people ate fresh meat, grilled almost whole" he says. "Travellers spread this habit to other areas."
Today, Brazilian churrascarias or barbecue houses serve various meats in a wide variety of cuts. In the Rio branch of Fogo do Chao, 20 tons of meat are consumed every month, says manager Claudiomiro Ligo. "Most of the employees are gauchos (from Rio Grande do Sul state) and know how to make a good churrasco because they grew up with this tradition."
But the recipe considered the most typical of Brazilian foods is the feijoada, a black bean stew cooked with different sorts of pork or beef, bacon, smoked sausages and jerked beef, served with rice, manioc flour, kale and slices of orange. In Rio, feijoadas have become a tradition in samba schools like Mangueira.