After so many years living in the UK, my annual visits to Brazil tend to be more about food than anything. To be fair, it is not just me, I think it’s a cultural thing, or my family is just crazy, who knows? It suits me! Numerous queries about menus, restaurants, barbeques and dinner parties’ start flooding in as soon as I book my flights, coming from everywhere: my mum, dad, other relatives, friends…
For me a trip to Brazil is not a holiday if I just go home to see my family, I try to divide it into two parts: one week at a beach destination and one week at home. This way I actually feel I have had a proper holiday. I get to explore places I have never been, or haven’t been in a very long time. It’s a chance to sample the fresh produce of that region, food I wouldn’t necessarily find in my hometown, and certainly not in the UK.
In Brazil, breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, which you should take your time over. However simple it may be, it tends to be a substantial meal. Accommodating a variety of dietary needs is never a problem. On my recent trip to the northeast coast I had the most amazing mornings of my life enjoying very long laid back breakfasts watching the sea under coconut trees. It would start with a selection of fresh exotic fruit juices, fruits, yogurt and muesli.
After that you would be offered a hot option like eggs, crepes and tapioca, cooked any way you like. While the kitchen was busy cooking it up, our table would be laid with bread (a few options), cakes, ham, cheeses, jams, honey and delicious coffee! I stayed mainly in pousadas (in Brazil these tend to be independently-owned accommodation, as opposed to a big hotel chain) but if you are staying at a big hotel you won’t be disappointed either. You will have similar breakfast options presented in a buffet style, and you can still ask for your tapioca, omelette and scrambled eggs to be made to your taste.
Now, let’s talk about seafood (best enjoyed at a beach, obviously) and snacks. Whether you are staying in a beach-front pousada in a remote area or in a big hotel in a busy seaside town you will be well catered for. When on holiday, Brazilians usually spend the whole day on the beach, and with food being such a big part of our culture, the beach is as good a place as any to be eating.
You will find a lot of deep fried options but that is just a small part of what we eat. The best are the fish and seafood dishes, cooked with the freshest ingredients and in the simplest way. To pair with that, we have ice-cold beer and you will often see someone touching the neck of the bottle as in to check it is “stupidly cold” enough to drink. You can have a meal, but we often opt for the sharing dishes: fried salt-cod croquettes (bolinho de bacalhau), sundried beef with cassava (carne de sol com mandioca), pan-fried garlic butter prawns or just simply grilled wonderfully fresh seafood.
If you are not spending a lazy day on the beach, the options for your lunch are endless. If you have time, you can go to a rodizio restaurant, where meat carvers pass from table to table slicing various cuts as you request them. You can also help yourself to the many hot and cold dishes on the buffet. You can eat as much as you like. If you want something quicker but nevertheless of great quality and variety, you can go to a kilo restaurant (pay-by-weight restaurant, which is a Buffet style, or help yourself), there you will find lots of options of hot and cold dishes, from sushi to grilled steak. This is where most people go for their lunch breaks from work. They are everywhere, prices will vary depending on the location, variety and quality of the food provided.
Another option is the all you can eat places, again, a set price will allow you to eat whatever you want, have dessert and a little coffee at the end, all included. If you don’t fancy the sometimes hefty price for these places you can opt for the “dish of the day” that won’t break the bank and it will be equally delicious. Brazilians do like to have a proper sit down meal and you won’t really see people walking around having ready-made sandwiches and crisps for lunch.
Dinner is not such a big deal in Brazil as it is over here in the UK. I guess here as people don’t usually have a meal at lunch time, they will want to have that at dinner. Still, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from wherever you are in Brazil. Most pousadas will have a restaurant on-site and probably will offer half board, with lunch or dinner as an option. If you don’t fancy a big meal but want to go out for drinks, any bar you go will also provide food if you feel peckish - Brazilians like to pick while they drink. Anywhere you travel to in Brazil, you will always be able to find great local food from the region that you are staying in.
Brazilians are rightly proud of their various cuisines, and we are happy to explain and help visitors negotiate the menu. Service is usually friendly, professional and attentive. It is well worth trying as many vegetables and fruits as you can as they are so different to the imports we buy in the UK. Whether you are gastronomically very adventurous, or happier with more familiar foods, Brazil will have a meal you like.
If you would like to visit Brazil, you can see all our Brazil holidays here. Or you can see our Brazil beach holidays here. You can also read more about Brazilian cuisine here.