Although there are many recipes that are Brazilian through-and-through, the cuisine in this part of the world has been heavily influenced by international flavors and ingredients for centuries. Immigration has had a huge impact on Brazil’s culture, including its food and drink scene, since the Portuguese arrived in 1500. Following this, the contribution of Indians and immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia have added unique, international flavors to Brazil.
Today, Brazil boasts an eclectic menu of fusion dishes (where traditional recipes have been infused with other worldly cuisines) that span every corner of the planet – from the tropical tastes of Thailand to the carb-loving foodie scene in Italy.
Here are some mouth-watering cross-cultural dishes you can whip up in your own kitchen.
Tuna Sashimi Tostada – Brazilian-Japanese
Brazil is home to the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan, with around 1.5 million calling the country home. This is predominantly due to the Meiji Restoration which shook up the Japanese government in the late 1800s. During this time, thousands of Japanese people immigrated to Brazil to work on coffee farms after the abolition of slavery meant there was a high demand for laborers.
To celebrate the Japanese heritage in Brazil, here’s a twist on tostadas, a common accompaniment dish in Brazil. The crisp tortillas that can be topped with a diverse range of ingredients – anything from cheese, to refried beans, to shredded beef. In this particular recipe, the hearty tostadas are topped with sashimi tuna, a Japanese favorite.
- 100g fresh coriander
- 300ml sunflower oil
- 5 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise (slightly tangier than Western-style mayo)
- 5 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tbsp wasabi paste
- A couple of drops of lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- 2 flour tortillas
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt flakes
- ½ pink grapefruit
- 150g sushi tuna
- ½ avocado cut into cubes
- 2 tbsp red onion – diced
- 4 tsp fish roe
- ½ red chilli – deseeded and chopped
- Coriander leaves
- 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds
- Wash coriander, dry, and chop. Heat it with the sunflower oil over a low heat until wilted.
- Place pan in a bowl of iced water and, once cool, blend in a food processor until smooth.
- Move processed coriander into a bowl and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.
- In a bowl, whisk together the wasabi cream ingredients, adding more to taste.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F and line non-stick baking parchment around a tray. Prick the tortillas, brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt before cutting them into quarters and baking them for 3 minutes on both sides.
- Remove the flesh from the grapefruit and set aside.
- When the tortillas are ready, cut the tuna into small chunks.
- Spoon half of the wasabi cream over the tortillas and arrange the tuna pieces on top. Add the remaining wasabi cream to the top.
- Place the grapefruit pieces, avocado cubes, red onion, fish roe, and chili over the top of the tortilla and drizzle the coriander oil on it.
- Finish with sea salt flakes and the toasted sesame seeds.
Brazilian-Thai Fusion Fish Stew
Though Brazil and Thailand don’t have visible historic connections in the way Brazil and Japan do, the cuisines from both destinations feature a lot of seafood, hearty meat dishes, and local spices. The similar climates and the position to their respective oceans have helped each country develop dishes with comparable ingredients. As travel and technology encourage cultural introductions, fusions between the two food cultures of Brazil and Thailand are increasing.
One result of the Brazilian-Tha experiments, is a Fusion Fish Stew. This light, refreshing dish combines the zesty flavors of tangy lime, coconut, and Thai spices with the smoky flavors of paprika and pepper from Brazil. Together, the infusion creates a hearty dish with tropical undertones.
- 1 lime for juice
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1.25lb white fish fillets, cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
- ½ bell pepper, chopped
- 1 zucchini, chopped into chunks
- 1 cup Cilantro Coconut Curry Sauce
- ¼ cup white wine
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add in the fish. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
- When the fish is ready, add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and zucchini to a pan over medium heat. Saute until the onion is soft and then add the marinated fish and the curry sauce. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Stir in the wine and coconut milk and cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
Feijoada – Brazilian-European
Brazil is famously connected to Portugal after the 16th century invasion. Navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral landed in Brazil and claimed it under the name of King Manuel I of Portugal. Since then, Brazil has continued to keep strong ties with Europe, which is evident in the feijoada.
The feijoada may well be one of Brazil’s treasured national dishes, but it has had a lot of influence from Europe. Based on the Portuguese “cozido”, Italian “cassoeula”, and the French “cassoulet”, it uses Brazilian black beans to give it a local touch.
- 1.4kg black beans
- 2 onions
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 hot chili pepper
- 1.5kg boneless pork loin
- 1.5kg pork backribs
- 1.5kg pork sausage
- 0.5kg smoked pork sausage
- 0.25kg pork rind
- 1 pork tail (optional)
- 2 pork tongue (optional)
- 250g ham cut into cubes
- Soak beans a couple of hours before draining and cooking
- Cook the beans in boiling water over a medium heat. Add in pork rind, tail, tongue, and ham.
- In another pan, sauté the onion, garlic, and bay leaves in oil and set aside.
- Cut the meat (except for the sausage) into cubes and cook on medium heat. Cook the meats separately to ensure all are cooked properly (the juices should run clear and the meat should be piping hot throughout).
- Add the sautéed onion mix, raw sausage, cooked meat, and chili to the boiled black beans. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, until the mixture becomes thick. Add salt to taste.
- Serve hot alongside white rice or braised cabbage.
Brazilian Bitterballen – Brazilian-Dutch
Bitterballen are all the rage in Amsterdam, which shares a lengthy history with Brazil since the Dutch West India Company traded goods there in the 17th century. During this time, the two cultures were brought together and shared trade goods, including local ingredients.
Served in cafes and trendy bars, they are a delicious deep fried snack a bit like a croquette. Though their fillings can vary, they are usually stuffed with shredded meat. This Brazilian version includes cassava flour and rib meat for a South American twist. You may struggle to find this unique recipe in local restaurants, but it is a tasty one to try from home.
- 100g butter
- 150g flour
- 700ml beef bouillon
- 30g minced onion
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- 400g rib meat, shredded
- Salt and pepper
- Plain flour
- 2 eggs
- Cassava flour
- Grill the ribs beforehand.
- Melt butter in a pan and slowly add the flour, cooking for 1 minute until the mixture is smooth.
- Gradually add beef stock, stirring regularly to avoid lumps, and cook for another minute.
- Add in the fresh parsley, onion, and shredded rib meat, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
- Move to a bowl to cool, before placing in fridge for 2-4 hours.
- Once mixture is cool and firm, scoop spoonfuls of it into the plain flour and shape into a ball before quickly dropping into into the egg mixture.
- Roll the balls into the cassava flour and deep fry for 2-4 minutes until they’re golden brown.
- Drain and serve.