Yuan was born in the north of Brazil in a city called Salvador located in the state of Bahia. Salvador is known for its beautiful coastal beaches, Portuguese influenced colonial architecture, and it’s deep cultural history heavily influenced by African, European, and Amerindian cultures and traditions. Currently, Yuan lives in the Netherlands but he can tell us all about the Brazilian food culture.
Yuan starts explaining that Brazilian food culture is very regional. “The further north in the country you are, the more heavily influenced the food is by African cuisines, such as the use of palm oil, peppers and cassava, whereas the further south you are, the more European the influences are.” But he explains that no matter where you are, rice, beans, a lot of meat, and root vegetables play an important role in day to day Brazilian food culture no matter where you are.
When asked whether Brazilians have special eating habits or traditions, Yuan tells us something striking. Almost everything is eaten with a fork or knife, including pizza and fast foods. “Eating with your hands is not common in most cases. Those foods that must be eaten with your hands are typically then wrapped in a napkin,” Yuan explains.
“Eating with your hands is not common in most cases.”
In terms of traditions, every year Brazilians celebrate Carnival. It marks the beginning of lent in the Catholic religion and usually takes place 40 days before Easter. Yuan tells us: “Although it has its religious roots, it has become one of the biggest attractions in Brazil, celebrated with alcohol, food, dance (samba), and costumes. Rio de Janeiro and my home city of Salvador are two of the most well known cities of Carnaval. Both, celebrate in similar yet very different fashions. Rio is known more for its display and competition of samba schools paired with a bit of street partying, whereas Salvador has more of a street party vibe together with concerts and festivals.”
We wondered what the role of food is during this festival. Yuan explains that Brazilian street food plays a huge part in the Carnival tradition. “Festivities often start very early in the day and typically end very late at night or even carry on to the following morning, sitting down for meals is usually not practical. Therefore, partygoers rely on street vendors for both food and drinks. Typical street food consists of meat or chicken skewers (meat on a stick), Coxinha’s (deep fried pastry filled with shredded chicken) or Pastel (Brazilian equivalent of the South American empanada).
“Street food plays a major role in the carnival tradition”
In addition to street food, Yuan tells us that Brazil has unique restaurant concepts. “Comida por kilo and churrascarias can be found all over Brazil. Comida por kilo is very popular amongst the working class who usually come together to eat during lunch time. Comida por kilo is buffet style food which is then weighed and paid for at the end of the meal. It has a large selection of meats, fishes, salads, and anything else you can think of, really!” Churrascarias are also very popular, so popular that you can even find these Brazilian churrascaria meat “houses” abroad. Some well known ones are “Fogo de Chao” or “Texas de Brazil”. “Here you can have a wide selection of all you can eat meat until you are perfectly full. Picanha, the most popular of the Brazilian meats, is usually the main point of attraction when visiting a churrascaria.”
Finally, Yuan tells us that drinking also plays an important role in Brazilian culture. Coffee is an integral part of everyday Brazilian life. Brazil is even the largest exporter of coffee in the world. Producing about a third of all of the world’s coffee. Another popular drink is Cachaca, the country’s official alcoholic drink and the main ingredient in a Caipirinha. Cheers!