In the melting pot of
Later immigrants introduced novelties from other nationalities: knackwurst, pizzas and hamburgers are fully assimilated by now.
You may not come to agree with the contention that Brazilian cooking is in the same class as French or Chinese (in my case Greek) cuisine for originality and grandeur, but you will certainly be glad to have made the acquaintance of
Most tourists stay at Zona Sul beaches and quite logically take advantage of the many good restaurants nearby. But it is also worth exploring the central business district, which boasts a distinguished roster of French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and even Brazilian restaurants.
Hotels customarily include breakfast (cafe da manha) in the price of the room (fresh fruit juice, toast and rolls, butter and marmalade and coffee with hot milk). The hours are posted, usually or If you miss breakfast, you can catch up at a stand-up street-corner cafe. However,
Meal times for lunch and dinner are uncommonly flexible. Lunch can start at or , more fashionably at or and go on as long as you please. Dinner can begin as early as or , but many restaurants stay open until or , or until the last customer goes home. Most restaurants are open seven days a week.
The national dish of
If you like unusual combinations of tastes and textures, you will rave about "feijoada". This typically Carioca stew is a feast of black beans with sausage and other pork products and dried beef, flavoured with onions, garlic, chives, tomato, parsley and perhaps hot peppers, then served with boiled rice, cassava flour, shredded kale and (brilliant after-thought) fresh orange slices. It is almost obligatory to start or accompany this meal with a batida, Brazilian rum sour. Discreet "feijoada" fanciers follow this with nothing stronger than mineral water.
The state of Minas Gerais, north of
"Acaraje". A large fritter made from a batter of dried beans and dried shrimp, deep-fried in boiling "dende" oil, the yellowish palm oil indispensable to northern cooking. The resultant dumpling is split down the middle and liberally filled with a special sauce made of ground shrimp, chopped onion, peppers and perhaps a dash of ginger. It is served as a starter or snack.
"Vatapa” This Bahian specialty calls to mind shrimp creole, but it is more complicated, with subtly interacting flavors. The ingredients may include shrimp, fish, grated coconut, ground peanuts, cashew nuts, tomato, onion, hot pepper, ginger, coriander, olive oil, "dende" oil, pepper and salt. This is sauteed at length and served with rice cooked in coconut milk.
"Xinxim" (pronounced shing-shing), another name to inspire the imagination, is a chicken stew from
Generally, when they eat fish, Cariocas prefer a thick fillet, for they are nervous about fish bones. In many restaurants you will find dishes described vaguely as "filet de peixed" (fish fillet). The fish in question often turns out to be "badejo" (bass), tasty in spite of its anonymity, but sometimes overwhelmed by a thick sauce. You can also get excellent sole "linguado". The sauce called "belle meuniere" is a butter sauce complicated, with typical Brazilian enthusiasm, by the addition of shrimp, mushrooms, asparagus, capers and whatever else will make it seem luxurious. In the Portuguese restaurants, you can choose from many varieties of "bacalhau", dried salt cod usually baked in a rich sauce.
All over town you will find lunch-counter restaurants advertising "galetos" (spring chicken barbecued over charcoal). This makes a fast, cheap and often delicious meal.
Stand-up snack bars are everywhere. They are often called "lanches" (which means "snacks" not "lunches". These are the places to try some Brazilian appetizers (codfish balls, chicken patties, shrimp pies, cheese patties.
A recent development is the proliferation of American-style hamburger and hot-dog emporia, clean and brash and very popular with young Brazilians.
For snacks on the run there are countless pushcarts dealing in sandwiches, hot-dogs or popcorn. On many a Rio street you will find a lady from Bahia in her flowing dress, beads and white turban, sitting behind a tray of the richest but subtlest cookies and cakes imaginable. In a glass case beneath this she displays a few snacks home-made from the great recipes: "acaraje" and "vatapa", for instance.
Desserts in restaurants or at snack bars can be overpoweringly sweet, probably a combination of the Portuguese influences and the early boom of the Brazilian sugar industry. If they prove too much for your taste, switch to fresh fruit, which is varied and abundant and generally a joy.
In the tropical heat, you will work up a healthy thirst. No matter where you find yourself, relief is close at hand.
On the beach, barefoot salesmen walk past you every other minute offering soft drinks, mineral water, beer, or paper cups filled with iced lemonade or "mate" (pronounced MAH-chee) from their over-the-shoulder tanks. Here the Gaucho drink, "mate", is served very cold and sweetened; it tastes like tea with overtones of tobacco. Another Brazilian drink, bottled "guarana", is made from a fruit growing in the Amazon; it tastes a bit like cream soda.
Certain bars specialize in "caldo de cana", sugar-cane juice squeezed before your eyes in a special press. The soupy liquor is not as sweet as you would expect, and the after-taste is somewhat wooden.
Look for the bars advertising "sucos" (juices) with lots of fresh fruit on display. They serve as many as 20 different fruits, juiced as you watch. Do not limit yourself to the delicious orange juice; try some tropical specialties like "caju" (cashew-apple), "mamao" (papaya) and "manga" (mango).
Perhaps the favourite Carioca thirst-quencher (served at stand-up bars, sidewalk cafes and with meals in restaurants of all classes) is a "chope" (pronounced SHOW-pee), a glass of ice-cold draft beer.
A "batida" is a cocktail, usually whipped up in a blender, of "cachaca", ice, sugar and fruit juice. Among favourite flavours: lemon, orange, coconut and passionfruit.
Brazilian wines enjoy less fame than they deserve. The best of them come from
Brazilian beer is a great national asset, always served very cold. Draft (chope) is the favourite, but some restaurants only serve beer in bottles, sometimes large bottles.
After dinner many restaurants serve complimentary coffee, or you can have a "cafezinho" at one of the coffee bars. You are expected to pour sugar into the little cup (capacity just over 2 fluid ounces) before the coffee is poured. Brazilians like it very sweet, and very often.
There is no government tax on restaurant meals, but a 10 percent service charge is often added to the bill. If your waiter served you will, you might want to leave an additional 5 percent or more on the table.
Most restaurants offer an optional "couvert", often an overpriced dish of olives and pickled carrots, broccoli and cucumber and a few gulls’ eggs. Feel free to wave it away if you do not find it appealing.
If a restaurant is full, it is not customary to join a table of strangers, even if only one person is occupying a table for four. You just have to wait for a free table.
These information will help you have a wonderful trip.