In the city of Sao Paulo there are purported to be over 3,000 restaurants and featuring foods of every ethnicity you’d find in any world-class city. Certainly the beef is famous and many people have heard of churrasco (a Brazilian counterpart of the barbecue), especially since Brazilian restaurants are now popular throughout the world. What you may not have heard about is the cuisine of Minas Gerais, this Southeastern region is the industrial heart of Brazil, and is home to several distinctive cooking styles.
There are 5 regional cuisines in Brazil; The North is covered by the Amazon rainforest. Its biodiversity results in a unique availability of ingredients and the Amazon river provides abundant stocks of fish. The Northeast is heavily influenced by the African and Portuguese cuisines. The Southeast is home to the major share of the Brazilian population. When people talk about the Brazilian cuisine, they often mean the cuisine of this region. The cuisine of the South is heavily influenced by the cuisines of European immigrants and the abundance of high quality meat produced on the pampas’s. The Central West was opened up relatively recently and the cuisines of hunters, fishers and ranchers are gradually being replaced by the cuisines of other Brazilian regions.
What makes the Minas Gerias (Southeast) food so great, in my opinion, is that many dishes are prepared and/or served in earthen ware bowls. Several meat dishes are served in sizzling skillets. My favorite place has a menu with at least 2 dozen dinner combinations all typical of Minas Gerias. We call the restaurant “the Minas” but these types of restaurants are found in all districts of Sao Paulo and the quality of food is very consistent because it’s such a common meal in Brazil. The prices vary from the equivalent of $5 to $20 U.S. dollars per person, depending on the place, the dishes, and what beverages you order. Of course the $5 meal would be the most common, chicken with rice and beans, and a cola.
Each order from “the Minas” comes with the main dish steaming in a hearty broth, in a big bowl, or sizzling hot on a cast-iron frying pan inset into a wooden serving board, always accompanied by variety of side dishes like delicious deep-fried manioc, sautéed collard greens (couve), pork rinds, mashed potatoes, and always rice and beans, considered a basic at the table. The food is extremely hearty, some might say comfort-food, my wife’s parents consider the meal to “heavy” and I’d agree that you have to be in the right frame-of- mind and hungry, to really enjoy a good Minas dinner. The orders are meant for 2 people but 4 could easily be satisfied and when it’s just 2 people it would be a challenge to finish. I always bring left-overs home and often notice other patrons doing the same.
I’ve been so impressed by not only the food of Minas Gerias but also the coffee and natural mineral waters that I’m planning to make a trip to that State, which is only 3 hours drive away, to experience the rest of what they have to offer, first-hand.
Here are some links to more cuisine information and recipes from Brazil.
Wikipedia – Cuisine of Brazil
Food & Drink from BrazilMax
Maria’s Brazilian Cookbook
Donna Brazil Recipes