A culinary tour of South America's largest country, region by region - By Carolina Santos-Neves

Super Food: Açaí berry


Açaí Berry


Açaí Berry

Super Food

The best-known food product from this region is the açaí berry, the oft-proclaimed "superfood" that arrived in the U.S. food market about 10 years ago and has since managed to infiltrate beverage, smoothie, yogurt, and even liqueur flavors. Açaí, a cherry-size, dark-violet-colored fruit, is just as popular throughout Brazil. Go to a local juice bar in Rio and you'll find it served in a sorbet-like fashion after being blended with guaraná (a berry containing high levels of caffeine that is also used in Guaraná, the national soda of Brazil), and topped off with sliced bananas and granola. But açaí is just one of the native fruits the Amazon region is known for: The northern region is also home to the creamy white cupuaçu, saccharine-sweet and tangy graviola (soursop), the sweet-and-sour bacuri, the cashew fruit cajú, and the tart and berry-red acerola, available fresh at local juice spots, or as ice cream and Caipirinha flavors.



Manioc - Root Vegetable



Root Vegetable

Prior to the arrival of any outside influences, the indigenous population of the northern region was processing Maninoc, a root vegetable to make flour. These days manioc flour, or farinha, is eaten fried or toasted, and processed in a variety of other ways. In the northern regions manioc flour is used to make pirão, a thick, gelatinous concoction made up of finely ground farinha mixed with either fish or meat stock. Farinha is also toasted on the stovetop with a generous portion of butter, and called farofa. Sometimes it's served with sautéed onions, raisins, or with a scrambled egg. Manioc starch, or polvilho doce ("sweet" starch) and polvilho azedo ("sour" starch), is used to make crackers and breads like pão de queijo, also known as cheese bread.






Hot Pepper Sauce

Hot pepper sauce, or pimenta, is another Amazon-derived specialty. There are more than a dozen varieties of Brazilian pimenta, ranging from malagueta to pimenta de cheiro, which translates to "the aromatic hot pepper."