Regional Brazilian Food
Some kinds of food are found all across the country (read about Brazilian food). However, in a country with such big dimensions and with a population of so many origins, it is evident that each region will have their own specific recipes.
This page describes some of the Brazilian regional cuisines that are found in Fortaleza.
Fortaleza, Ceará and Northeast of Brazil
States in the Northeastern corner of Brazil (Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Sergipe) have some geographical features in common, which reflects in the culinary.
Except for a narrow strip along the coast, the soil of the Northeast is not fertil; climate is semi-arid, with high temperatures and low pluviosity. This has always made difficult the cultivation of permanent cultures.
Since the 16th centuries, settlers learned with the Indians how to survive in such hostile environment. The main components of indian food were corn and manioc. These products can stand tough climates and have a short cycle (only a few months between sowing the seeds and harvesting the crop); they can be stored for months; they feed livestocks. Besides, despite the low nutritive values, these products are very energetic, providing strenght for the long work hours that people here have to face. Until today, corn (in Portuguese, milho) and manioc (in Portuguese, it is called "mandioca" in the South and "macaxeira" in the North) are present in many regional dishes.
Another major component of the Northeastern food is also related to the adverse climate conditions. Because of the poor soil conditions, for a long time the drier zones of Ceará were used for cattle raising; the cattle was sent to the Southern States, to be used both as food and as work force in the farms. How to preserve the meat, in a time when there were no refrigerators?
Farmers of Ceará developed a method which permitted to keep the food for a longer time. The meat was cut and hang on lines, exposed to the sun; the sun evaporated the water, and most bacteria which deteriorate the meat. Later, the dry meat was kept in salt, which is a water aglutinator and avoids the meat becoming humid again. This is a process similar to the production of jerked beef.
The meat produced by this process is called "carne de sol" (meat of sun); in the southern States, it is called "carne seca" (dry meat). Even with the new technologies, carne de sol is still produced and consumed in large scale in the Northeast; the meat is surprisingly tasteful and tender.
Two kinds of cuisine deserve special mention: feijoada and churrasco. They were originally regional plates, but nowadays can be found (with different popularities) in all major Brazilian cities.
Feijoada is THE national Brazilian dish. It was created in Brazil, and, when found in other countries, it is usually restricted to the Brazilian communities; a reason to explain this phenomenon is that preparing a good feijoada takes many specific ingredients and a lot of expertise.
Feijoada is a dish of black origin, prepared in several Brazilian States. However, it was in Rio de Janeiro that the feijoada gained most popularity. Until today, "feijoada carioca" (carioca is the name of those born in the city of Rio de Janeiro) is mentioned as synonymous of the true feijoada.
Read more about feijoada.
Churrasco - Rodízio
Churrasco is the Brazilian counterpart of what Americans call barbeque: meat baked with burning wood or coal.
In Brazil, churrasco had origin in the southern States, particularly Rio Grande do Sul. The gaúchos (cowboys of the region) spent days and weeks away; to prepare their food, they piled coal on the floor and, lit the fire and usually with help of skews, place the meat over the fire.
Even though many families still prepare their churrasco at home, it has become more usual for the middle class families (and tourists) to go to houses specialized in that kind of food. Most such places work on a system called Rodízio; in a rodízio, waiters are moving around the tables all the time offering different kinds of cuts (the origin of the word rodízio is this rotation of choices), and customers eat all they can.
Some Brazilian style rodizios have been established in USA and Europe, but at a much higher cost. Foreigner usually are impressed with the quantity, quality and price of the meat served in rodízios.
Read more about churrasco.