This post was first published on LinkedIn on October 23rd.
I believe in chasing flavors and that if we eat globally we can eat better. Other countries have so much to offer not just in terms of new dishes but also in thier understandings of food and agriculture that can improve how we all eat. One of the nations I am particularly excited about is Brazil; anyway you frame it, this South American giant is a country on the rise. The country’s recent economic boom has led to growth is a multitude of sectors, including technology and social innovation, along with a matching boom in population, as thousands of immigrants have steadily flocked to this emerging market. While in the United States we like to call this influx of diversity our “melting pot,” in Brazil I believe the national dish of feijoada becomes a much more apt metaphor. This tasty bean and meat stew, which is typically served over rice with a side of fresh orange slices, transforms a jumble of ingredients and techniques sourced from both the Portuguese and the African continent into something much more vibrant, delicious, and overwhelmingly Brazilian.
As a chef, I am particularly fond of feijoada and of Brazilian cuisine in general. Other popular dishes include churrasco, those great swords of meat wielded freely and famously in Brazilian steakhouses, and Moqueca de Peixe, a rich fish stew, accompanied by sides of farofa, toasted manioc meal, and Pão de Queijo, a tasty and chewy cheese bread. But as a nation of immigrants, Brazilian cuisine is as multifaceted and multicultural as its people. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, generations of Portuguese, Italians, Germans, and Spanish settled in this vibrant region of South America, bringing with them not just their ingenuity but also their fondness of chicken milanese and of high-quality beer. Today, Brazil in home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, infusing their cuisine with some incredible East Asian flavors. (Ordering sushi in Brazil when you speak neither Japanese nor Portuguese is a difficult, albiet tasty task.) With even more recent waves of immigrants, from areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Brazilian cuisine continues to grow and evolve with the influence of these new histories and palates.
Culinary innovation in Brazil also emerges from the physical landscape itself; the Amazon rainforest may well be one of the last places on earth we can truly find new ingredients with which to push the boundaries of food. The shelves of American health food stores are already lined with Amazonian superfoods, such as Açaì, Cacao, and Capuaçu, but Brazilian chefs like the talented Alex Atala are using a multitude more of these ingredients, along with indigeous cooking techniques, to transform all of our notions of not just “Brazilian” cuisine but of eating more broadly.
I am personally excited about the recent developments in Brazilian food. With great Chefs like Atala gaining increased reknown for their work, and with the upcoming World Cup and Summer Olympics, the world will soon know so much more about this dynamic and delicious cuisine.