In a country with continental dimensions and a population which resulted from several cultures, it is natural to find regional differences in culinary (read more about regional food in Brazil). However, there are some basic kinds of food which can be found in almost all the country, which we call Brazilian Food.
This is the kind of food you would probably find if visiting a Brazilian family without notice. The kind of food served in popular (i.e., serving the working classes) Brazilian restaurants.
There are some ingredients which are base of daily food in most parts of Brazil.
Some of them:
- white rice; usually condimented with oil, salt, onion and garlic.
- beans; both brown and black beans are found, except in Rio de Janeiro, where there is an absolute predominance of black beans. The combination rice and beans is the basic food of a good part of the poor Brazilians.
- salad; lettuce, tomato and onion, usually raw, are the most commonly found; housewives usually pick vegetables and green leaves in accordance with the season.
- potato is also commonly found, either fried or stewed (usually mixed with mayonnaise and other vegetables). Potatoes are garnish, rather than basis of meals.
- beef. Brazilians usually have beef, chicken, fish and pork. Exotic animals (dogs, monkeys, snakes) are not consumed in Brazil. Chicken is most widely found in popular restaurants, because it's the cheapest; large fishes are expensive; beef in Brazil is sold in cuts, and prices vary much.
- pasta. Thanks to the influence of the Italians, basic spaghetti is very common in many popular Brazilian restaurants. More pasta variety is usually found in Italian restaurants (see international food below).
- fruits. There are many fruits in supermarkets, but restaurants usually serve those which are easier to stock, such as apples, oranges, pineapples, watermellons, mellons.
It's common to find in the larger cities restaurants offering what Brazilians call "prato feito" (whose translation is something like "ready meal"), very commonly referred to as "PF", or "executivos" (executive meals - supposedly, it was a PF for the executives, high employees of corporations). Both of them are combinations of the ingredients mentioned above.
A "prato feito" usually comes in a single plate, with all servings; it usually includes rice, beans, salad, maybe fried potatoes and an fried egg, and a kind of meat: beef, chicken or, more rarely, fish and pork. An "executivo" is an enhanced PF: bigger portions, usually in separated plates.
In recent years, a kind of restaurant thrived: the self-service, also called "restaurantes no peso" (restaurants by the weight) or "comida a quilo" (food by the kilo).
The restaurant prepares a variety of food and makes it available in large servers. Customers pick whatever they want, in the amount they want; the plate with food is weighted, and the price is determined by the weight.
Some popular restaurants offer basic food in rustic instalations, while others (particularly those in Shopping Centers) offer an impressive large variety (several kinds of rice, pasta, salads, meat, etc) of noticeable higher quality in comfortable ambiences.
Of course, prices vary in accordance to the quality of the food and of the comfort of the restaurant. In popular places, a meal can go for R$ 4 or R$ 5, whereas in the poshest ones it can reach R$ 30 per kilo; notice that some places impose a higher price to customers who take only beef or fish or something more expensive.