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.
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).
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.
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.
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.