Sweet Avocado and Other Brazilian Delights
SÃO PAULO – My journey to discover Brazil starts in São Paulo. Although not the capital, this city has a lot to offer for travelers who are interested in more than just natural beauty and amazing beaches. As I have heard, the best thing here is the food. Sweet avocado is just one example.
As I normally consume avocado in a healthy salad or as sandwich filling, eating sugared guacamole seems pretty weird. The rich taste, however, is absolutely dazzling and convinces me immediately.
Another “dulce” you should try when getting to know more about Brazil’s culture and cuisine is what we Dutch call “a kiss of a black man”, a big chocolate bonbon filled with cream. It tastes even better when it’s passion fruit cream and you combine it with a chocolate coffee… Mmm. I guess chocolate is just my thing!
Even better, and more local, is the amazing brigadeiro, another chocolate sweet. It’s crispy on the outside, yet creamy and soft on the inside. I know it sounds like a cliché promotional plug, but I assure you it is true… find out for yourself when you get the chance!
In addition to chocolates, Brazil has a lot of natural sweets based on exotic fruits you find growing in the many green areas of the country. Banana trees, mango trees and even pineapple shrubs are easily found on the side of the road in some places. The local population has found ways to enhance the natural flavors and create delicious meals.
Like an apple tree in Europe you see the banana tree everywhere in Brazil. Photo: Joline Bakker
“Romeo and Juliet” is a good example. This desert is mainly known in the Portuguese-speaking countries of the world, and exists as a combination of goiabada (guava paste) and cheese. The same is true for ambrosia, for me an unconventional mix of egg, sugar and cinnamon. I know it doesn’t sound that good, but its something else you should try for yourself! Other very sweet but tasteful deserts are pumpkin sweets mixed with coconut (abóbora) and the famous caramel sauce, doce de leite, also known in Argentina and Chile.
For those of you with a smaller, less aggressive sweet tooth, Brazil has some delightful plates as well. Meat and rice with black beans (feijoada) is traditionally found twice a week on almost any menu. A popular side dish called farofa is made from manioc flour, typically used in Latin America and in the process of making gluten-free cookies.
To quench your thirst while enjoying the local cuisine, Brazilians have their own special drinks as well. A caiprinha is universally known as the country’s national cocktail. Made with cachaça (the alcohol resulting from the fermentation of sugarcane), lime and sugar, it is the sweeter, more treacherous version of Cuba’s mojito. Due to its success and the existence of many fruit types in this enormous land, caipirinhas made from passion fruit, pineapple and caju are popular as well.
Caju, the juice of a cashew fruit (where the cashew nut comes from), is also frequently used as a refresher during the day. Almost as popular as Coca Cola is the canned soda drink guarana. Found in the Amazon rain forest, the red fruit on which this soft drink is based is rich in caffeine and also used in energy drinks. Derived from warana (“fruit like eyes of the people”), this species of berry plays an important role in the Guaraní and Tupi indigenous cultures.
During my journey, in which I’ve spent most of my time in São Paulo with some real paulistas, I have learned more about Brazil than when I was traveling around the country itself. Although I have seen many beautiful places and enchanted beaches, I have found that getting to know a country and its people starts by exploring the local cuisine.
So, as I said before, the taste of sweet avocado opened a whole new world and made me love Brazil even more.
By Joline Bakker