Northeastern Brazil: a cultural stew of culinary delights!


Rich in geographical and cultural diversity, Brazil is a delightful destination for those who love to eat and experience knowledge and flavors on a culinary journey through different regions of the country to stimulate the senses of sight, smell and, above all, taste.

In fact, over more than 500 years of history, Brazilian cuisine results from a great mix of traditions, ingredients, and foods introduced not only by the indigenous peoples, but also by different migratory flows, especially Europeans and Africans, over all these centuries. We start our culinary journey in the Northeast of this continental country.

The third largest region in Brazil, the Northeast covers approximately 1,554,000 sq km (600,000 sq. mi) and includes nine states. Together, they all offer an amazing cultural and culinary stew, where the sun and the breeze reign on beaches framed by cliffs and vast coconut groves.

There is much to taste in this region, which is the birthplace of the European settlement in Brazil and proposes a cuisine steeped in indigenous, Portuguese, and African traditions. From the sea come dishes prepared with fish and crustaceans, and from the countryside come beef jerky, sun-dried meat, and the unmatched bottle butter, which, unlike ordinary butter, is stored in a bottle (hence the name) and remains liquid at room temperature.

Pernambuco

Regional cuisine and seafood recipes share space with classic dishes of international cuisine at Nannai Resort & Spa, set on a scenic beach with coconut trees in Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco. The menu includes Carne-de-sol Sertaneja (sun-dried beef), served with bottle butter (made by simmering cow’s milk cream until all the water evaporates leaving only fat) and accompanied by baked queijo coalho (local cheese), cassava chips, farofa (toasted cassava flour) with eggs, green cowpea, and vinagrete (pico de gallo). Another tip is Robalo Nordestino (sea bass), which is prized by chefs for its nobility, texture, and versatility and is served with creamy lemon rice, plantains, and crushed cashew nuts (rich in monounsaturated fats, which are good for your heart health).

Ceará

At Rancho do Peixe, in Praia do Preá, Ceará, delicacies from the countryside come to the table with reinterpretations without sacrificing tradition and value healthy foods from organic and sustainable sources. Tapioca is a starch extracted from cassava, usually prepared in granulated form and often served at breakfast as a great gluten-free substitute for bread. This delicacy is also used to make a dessert called ‘Tapioca Pudding’, with the best granulated tapioca, coconut milk, and free-range eggs, which together form a pudding that is worth every bite.

Alagoas

The vastness of the emerald green sea of Alagoas inspires an inventive and aromatic cuisine. In the unique atmosphere of Kenoa Resort, your senses will be amazed by each combination of ingredients of surprising textures at its restaurant, Kaamo. Among the attractions on the menu, you will surely be delighted with “Polvo Croque Croque” (crunchy octopus), which perfumes the air with a touch of acerola, or lobster served with pumpkin puree and spices, as well as a very refined mix of fresh oysters (which can be directly harvested by you) with honey collected from a fishing village located within an Atlantic Forest reserve.

Bahia

Nicknamed the ‘Land of Happiness’, Bahia features traditional cuisine alongside contemporary cuisine. At Txai Resort, in Itacaré, its restaurants (Orixás and Praia) propose an unparalleled culinary experience. One of the best known Bahian dishes, with strong African influence, is the aromatic moqueca de camarão (shrimp stew), served with coconut rice, pirão, cassava flour with palm oil (of a striking flavor and orange in color, extracted from a palm tree called dende), and vinagrete. Another more contemporary option is Charuto de Camarão (shrimp roll), made of shrimp and arboreal rice wrapped in a taioba leaf (a healthy tropical plant also known as arrowleaf elephant ear, especially because it is rich in vitamin A) and served with green mango salad and roasted peanuts.

Also in Bahia, the trendy village of Trancoso is known for its hip hotels and good food. Two highlights in this district of Porto Seguro are Uxuá Quadrado Restaurante and Uxuá Praia Bar. Both places majestically blend traditional Bahian culinary and international influences into recipes made with products from the hotel’s organic garden. The success is such that guests of Uxuá Casa Hotel & Spa can venture into cooking classes on Wednesdays at Quadrado (Quartas no Quadrado) to learn how to prepare a perfect moqueca or discover the secrets of transforming cocoa (originally from the Amazon rainforest and the main raw material for chocolate, which is made by roasting and grinding its dried beans) into delicious artisanal chocolate.

At Campo Bahia, in the village of Santo André, one tip is to try a selection of cocadas, coconut candies that you receive when you arrive at the hotel. There’s nothing tastier or more nutritious than cold coconut water to refresh body and soul.

Coconut water is arguably one of the world’s most restorative and refreshing drinks. Nutritious, rich in natural potassium, low in sodium, and practically calorie-free (it actually speeds up the metabolism to help burn more calories), it’s the wonder refreshment in the fitness world and is available everywhere from the beach to the bar in tropical Brazil.  It has even been found to have anti-aging properties and to be a natural diuretic. You find healthy food in Brazil!

Simone Scorsato is Executive Director of Brazilian Luxury Travel Association. BLTA’s main objective is to promote and strengthen Brazil as a travel destination to the global luxury market.

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Comments (7)

  1. Ed says:

    Cassava chips sound a lot healthier than my regular fast food chips, like to try those but obviously in Brazil.

  2. Emily Ellis says:

    I never even know there was such a thing as bottle butter. That would make cake and cookie making so much easier. I quite like Tapioca pudding and I’m glad free-range eggs are used here. I’ve never understood quite why any other are allowed, surely all chickens could and should be free-range. There’s definitely an essence of creativity and a focus on organic, raw, sustainable ingredients. Rather than glorifying low fat produce like we seem to do in the UK, the food here seems very rich and flavoursome and I imagine packed with more nutrients and goodness too.

    The taioba leaf or arrow leaf elephant ear (what a great name!) Is an interesting one too because I wouldn’t have thought you’d eat it but it sounds great being natural and packed with vitamin A. There’s just so much colour and variety. A few of these things have become more of a ‘trend’ in the UK as well like coconut water, but of course ours is all pre-packed and you have to be careful you’re getting something natural and not full of other junk.

  3. Jean Hall says:

    When I was at school Tapioca pudding was probably the most hated item on the school menu. It’s disgusting texture earned it the nickname of “frogspawn.”

    Recently, I’ve tried hard to get over that food trauma from all those years and opted for Tapioca in a few restaurants – and, of course, it’s been utterly delicious.

    Back then, Brazil might as well have been the moon, people like us just didn’t travel the world. How things have changed. Suddenly ordering Tapioca Pudding in Ceara seems like the thing to do.

  4. Tom Holmes says:

    I could live very happily on a diet of seafood. When I finally make it to Brazil, Alagoas will be number one on my list of restaurants to visit. I knew that a lot of people are very squeamish over eating octopus but I love them, the crunchier the better.

  5. Neil Russell says:

    To be honest money’s too tight to mention at the moment (to quote Simply Red) but whilst I’m saving up I’d like to have a go at some Brazilian style dishes to get me in the mood for when I can travel. Not a lot of octopuses or cassava around in our local shops but no reason why I can’t have a go at the Robalo Nordestino. Waitrose do Sea Bass and plantains. I should be able to crush some cashew nuts and do my own take on creamy lemon rice. It all sounds delicious, good enough for a Masterchef recipe.

  6. Andrew says:

    I have a friend who is a chef and I always appreciated his ability to cook very well. This post had a lot of great imagery and I even learned some new words. The more I learn about Brazil, the more I want to visit there. Fascinating country, and the shrimp rolls sound fantastic!

  7. Sam. B says:

    I’ve tried the crunchy octopus when I was at Ponta das Canas beach. There was this restaurant, I forgot the name, nearby that offered crunch octopus and I decided that I just had to try it. Mine came with chili jelly but I’m wondering if that dish really comes with it in any other place. It was delicious and worth it especially if you can get past visualizing the tentacles as moving. I know I did for a while!

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