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If you've ever been to a Brazilian restaurant, you probably noticed that the menu offered lots of meat dishes. One of the most famous Brazilian dishes is barbecue or churrasco. But Brazilian cuisine is known for much more than its grilled steak, pork, and chicken recipes. Traditional Brazilian recipes feature a wide variety of root vegetables, seafood, black-eyed peas, and black bean dishes, different types of cheese, and lots of hearty stew recipes, including Brazilian fish stew, meat stew, an…

a black bean stew with beef and pork.

Why such a large variety of traditional foods? Brazil is, and it borders nearly a dozen different South American countries. Over time, travelers to and from places like Chile and Peru have introduced traditional cuisines from those countries. Brazil also has hundreds of miles of coastline, making fishing an essential part of the country's economy. For a long time, Brazil has been a draw for immigrants from all over Europe, Asia, and Africa, and those people introduced their indigenous cuisines. Finally, like other large country's, you can find different types of Brazilian cuisine in different regions. It's like in the U.S. where barbecue is popular in the South, seafood is popular on the coasts, and Asian cuisine is popular in pockets of cities where people from Asian countries have migrated.

Southern Brazilian Cuisine

Dishes popular in cities like Rio and Sao Paulo include Brazilian feijoada -- a black bean stew with different types of meat. It takes about 15 minutes to load a large pot with the various ingredients used to make this famous Brazilian dish but to get all of the flavors to meld just right. You need to let it simmer for hours. Feijoada is not one of those quick and easy recipes that you can crank out on a busy night. But if you dedicate a Sunday to letting your feijoada slow cook on the stove, then you need to reheat leftovers. Feijoada is also a perfect slow cooker recipe.

Northern Brazil

The food in the northern part of the country is heavily influenced by ingredients indigenous to the region while the northeast has a lot of African, Portuguese, and Indian influences. In Pará, which is perfectly centered in Northern Brazil, one of the most famous dishes is pato no tucupi. Pato means "duck," and tucupi is a yellow liquid taken from the manioc root. To make pato sauce, it's boiled with herbs. It's a pretty common sauce found in many Brazilian dishes. Pato no tucupi is traditionally served during a popular Catholic festival, Cirio de Nazaré. It's made by roasting duck and then letting it simmer in tucupi sauce with garlic and different herbs. Tucupi is also used for cooking catfish from the Amazon River, with shrimp.

Central West Brazil

This region of Brazil is popular with those of us who love anything served in or with beans and rice. One of the most popular dishes here is Arroz com pequi. Pequi is a fruit, but you wouldn't know it from its cheese-like taste. So you're more likely to see it in savory recipes. To make rice with pequi, you need vegetable oil, pequi (which you can get at specialty stores, especially those that sell Brazilian foods), onions, rice, chicken broth, and green onion. First, fry the pequi and continue frying after you add onion and garlic. Fry the rice for a few minutes, too, until lightly transparent. Then bring everything to a boil and reduce to a low or medium heat. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. The cook time for this recipes is about 30 minutes. If you enjoy pequi fruit, then next on your Brazilian food tour can be chicken with pequi. If you've never handled pequi before, you may want to ask for assistance at the grocery store. The pit is protected by lots of sharp spines that you don't want getting into your mouth.

Southern Brazil

This is the region that Brazilian food lovers in the U.S. seem to enjoy the most. This is where you will find lots of red meat recipes, including churrasco, which refers to meat cooked over an open fire, aka, barbecue. You don't need a lot of herbs and spices when making churrasco. The idea is to serve flank steak, sausage, chicken, or pork simply grilled to perfection. Serve with a salsa dip containing red wine vinegar; green, yellow, and red bell pepper; tomato, sweet onion, and vegetable oil. Combine the ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste. Again, you can improvise on portion size and even add ingredients if you want.

Traditional Brazilian Recipes

Pa de queijo, or baked cheese bread, is a favorite snack or breakfast food. It's made with oil, whole milk, unsalted butter, tapioca flour, eggs, salt, and grated Parmesan cheese. After bringing butter, milk, and salt to a boil, turn off the heat and add tapioca flour. Mix the dough with an electric mixer until it cools. Beat in eggs one at a time. Then mix the cheese into the dough and beat again. Use a spoon to make ball shapes and transfer to a baking and bake at about 400-degrees F for 30 minutes. Once the bread is golden brown on top, it's finished baking. Cheese balls will go perfectly with your homemade Brazilian feast.

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