What's For Dinner? Try Brazilian | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

What's For Dinner? Try Brazilian

Play associated audio

When you think of the world's great cuisines, Brazilian food doesn't spring to mind. But that is about to change.

Outside of Brazil,the South American nation is most famous for its BBQ, or churrascarria. But inside the country, a new movement celebrating regional foods is booming. And ahead of the World Cup and the Olympics, Brazilians are hoping the world will get a new taste of Brazil.

I visit a restauraunt called Consulado Minero, which specializes in food from the state Minas Gerias. Right in front of me is a huge bubbling pot of beans.

The food here is fried, it's salty, but it's really tasty.

Helvecio Oliveira, the owner of the restaurant, says food from Minas is simple food. The state of Minas is named after its mines.

Historically, it supplied gold to what was then the capital, Rio. Food had to be easy to transport because it was taken on mules for days, Oliveira says. So the cuisine here uses a lot of salted beef and beans.

And its humble beginnings, Oliveira says, gave food from Minas a bad rap. It was looked at as poor people's food.

And that was the case for Brazilian food in general. Even though the continent-sized country has 26 states, each with different histories and flavors, as in many post-colonial nations, people looked down on what was native. A good restaurant was French, Italian or Portuguese — but certainly not Brazilian.

Mara Salles, the chef owner of Tordesilhas in Sao Paulo, was one of the first chefs to take Brazilian food seriously. When she started, she says, there were no Brazilian chefs focusing on Brazilian gastronomy.

"I started teaching at Brazil's first chef school in 2002. It was the very beginning of the Brazilian gastronomy movement," she says. "People at the time were into other cuisines, and the chefs had to have worked in other countries to be respected. I had none of that. It was really hard to make them see that Brazil has a great diversity."

Then something interesting happened.

When the Brazilian boom began a decade ago, Brazilians started gaining self-esteem. And, Salles says, everything Brazilian became more well-known outside the country.

Which made it more valuable inside the country. Professionally run restaurants serving regional food from all over Brazil began popping up. And now some of the best restaurants in the world are here. This year, Alex Atala's restaurant D.O.M., which focuses on Amazonian ingredients, was named among the world's top 10.

And many restaurants are becoming commercial successes that have an eye on the international market.

Coco Bambu is a chain of restaurants that focuses on the coastal cuisine of the state of Ceara — that means a lot of shrimp, fish, creamy sauces. The 20-something partners behind the brand are Arthur Moraes and Ronald Aguiar.

"Brazilians are traveling the whole world now, and they eat at the best restaurants. And in a way people, are looking for something new. And regional Brazilian restaurants are new, in a way," Aguiar says.

In five years, their chain has grown from one location to eight. And Moreaes says Brazilian regional cuisine will go global with the World Cup and the Olympics. Reservations at their restaurants are already sold out for the month of the World Cup in 2014.

Next year the group is planning to open a branch in the heart of Miami.

"We are taking that new Brazil taste, that new Brazilian gastronomy that Brazilians love, to a wider audience," Morais says.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, Nov. 24

The main characters in two plays try to get ahead with just a pinch of trickery. Will it work out? You’ll have to see the shows to find out.

WAMU 88.5

Hops Coming Home: Loudoun County To Add Hop Production Facility

The first commercial-scale hop production and processing facility in the region is being planned out in Loudoun County, further adding to the region's burgeoning beer business.

WAMU 88.5

D.C. Statehood Activists Soldier On In Face Of Long Odds

With Republicans set to take the reins of both the House and Senate next year, D.C. statehood faces even longer odds than before, but that doesn't stop activists from making their case.

NPR

Action On Immigration Meets Silence, Skepticism In Silicon Valley

As an organized sector, the tech industry did not applaud President Obama's executive action on immigration; and the future of the joint campaign for a comprehensive bill is unclear.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.