7 delicious things to eat in Brazil

the fidgety foodie_7 delicious things to eat in Brazil

Feijoada – Brazil’s national dish with all the trimmings

I’m not sure if it’s the samba or the caipirinhas but Brazil has always held an allure for me and I found the food scene intoxicating. This is hardly a definitive list, more a top 7 scenario – stay tuned for part 2.

the fidgety foodie_7 delicious things to eat in Brazil

Yes it’s deep fried sushi and yes it works

Deep fried sushi

Did you know that Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan? So the ubiquity of sushi joints was not a surprise. What was a surprise was the, how should I put it… originality of sushi the Brazilians have perfected. Would you like mango in your California roll? What about a strawberry and cream cheese hand roll? Deep fried sushi? All are in scope for the Brazilians. I’d been warned about a signature of Brazilian sushi, the Hot Philadelphia, so naturally had to try it. They start with salmon and rice in nori seaweed. What’s the big deal, right? Well then add cream cheese and deep fry the whole thing. In all fairness it actually tasted delicious, but any sushi connoisseur would surely be shaking their head.

the fidgety foodie_7 delicious things to eat in Brazil

Bolinhos de bacalhau 

“Whatever you do DO NOT leave Rio without trying these” said my Brazilian friend Rodrigo. I am never one to ignore a local’s recommendation, particularly when it’s a variation on fish cakes. In his eyes these torpedo shaped patties made from bacalhau (dried and salted cod), potatoes, eggs, parsley and onion are the defining dish of Rio. I must concur he was right as I saw them on almost every table every time I went out to a boteco to drink. When in Rio I did as the Cariocas do so ordered them a number of times and they never disappointed.

the fidgety foodie_7 delicious things to eat in Brazil

Feijoada from the Academia da Cachaca in Leblon, Rio

Feijoada

As Brazil’s national dish this is an obvious addition to the list but given its fame I was surprised at how elusive it was. Sure every buffet had a version (but by definition anything on a buffet table can only reach certain heights) and that was the first time I tried it, but I wanted to try it in its full glory with all the trimmings – and for that you have to track down certain restaurants and eat at certain times, namely Saturday or Sunday lunch.

the fidgety foodie_7 delicious things to eat in Brazil

Succulent cuts of meat along with off cuts in this feijoada

Feijoada is dish of slow cooked black beans stewed with a variety of meaty off cuts, ranging from salted pig’s ears to beef tongue. The traditional accompaniments are rice, farofa (toasted cassava flour), collared greens, bacon and orange to help cut through the richness of the stew. It’s an epic meal and pretty much all you’ll need to eat that day.

the fidgety foodie_7 delicious things to eat in Brazil

Feijoada with rice, farofa, collared greens, bacon and orange

The iconic dish was created by the West African slaves brought to Brazil by the colonial Portuguese but is now considered a dish that feeds the soul of the whole Brazilian population. Just make sure you fast before you eat it. Read More

Mole, mole, mole

the fidgety foodie_Mexican mole

Mole concentrate from Chiles Secos in LA

The iconic Mexican sauce not the facial adornment of course.

Growing up, mole was the sauce with chocolate (yes, chocolate!!!) that I tried at a few suburban Mexican restaurants and never understood. Was it a dessert or a savoury dish I wondered?? I envisaged a chef breaking up pieces of Cadbury Dairy Milk and adding them to a pot and the whole idea sounded bizarre (although delicious – what dish isn’t improved with chocolate?).

It took a little more culinary maturity before I understood that dark chocolate, with minimal milk solids and fats, was the key ingredient that added a richness and depth to the sauce.

the fidgety foodie_Mexican mole

Mexican mole at Mi Lupita in Mexico City

Mole of course means ‘sauce’, so guacamole for instance, literally means avocado sauce. Mole poblano from Puebla is the most famous of all the moles and arguably Mexico’s national dish. Dark chocolate, multiple chili peppers and up to 20 different spices make up this iconic dish. It takes time for the flavours to develop and layer up so it’s usually reserved for special occasions.

Sauce in most cuisines is the accompaniment, playing second fiddle to a piece of meat or other hero ingredient. But not mole. Mole IS the dish. It’s the star of any plate and the chicken or other protein served alongside is merely there to accompany the sauce to the mouth. A plate of sauce with a little pile of chicken on the side is not an uncommon sight.

My obsession with mole really began when I went to Mexico. My (only) preparation for a week in Mexico City was a thorough analysis of the best places to find mole, specifically mole poblano.

the fidgety foodie_Mexican mole

The best mole in Mexico City is to be found at Mi Lupita

That’s how I came across Mi Lupita, a little ‘fonda’ or casual restaurant in Centro Histórico that’s been making mole since 1957. It was tiny, with barely six tables and no one that remotely resembled a tourist. Perfect. There I had one of the most memorable dishes of my life: a plate of the house special of mole poblano with chicken on enchiladas.

the fidgety foodie_Mexican mole

Mole poblano with chicken on enchiladas at Mi Lupita

Even though I hadn’t tasted every mole in Mexico City, I was sure that this was indeed the best. What could taste better than this? The mole was rich, intense, spicy, smoky, chocolaty. The chicken was lean and the whole dish was topped with onion and grated queso fresco. Further proof shortly arrived at the table next to me. A local food guide was there with four travellers, explaining why Mi Lupita’s mole was the best in the world and I nodded on in agreement.

mole poblano with chicken on enchiladas

The mole spice mix selection at Mi Lupita

I overheard the guide mention mole spice mix could be bought to take away and I wanted in. I leant over to ask him how to request it and the first thing he wanted to know was how on earth I’d found this secret little place? It was almost as though I’d ruined his surprise. I may not be a local I told him, but I know how to use google to my advantage!

I left Mi Lupita with half a kilo of mole in a plastic bag with a knot at the top and somehow managed to get it back to Sydney (thankfully they weren’t filming Border Security that day). I had many a delicious meal from that mole base and wished many times I’d brought double, even triple, back home with me. Read More

5 mouth-watering reasons to visit Chile

One of the many ceviche dishes I enjoyed in Chile

When I told people I was carving out three days of my South American holiday to spend in Chile, specifically Santiago and Valparaiso, they were confused. Aussies need to pass through Santiago to fly home but no one actually steps out of the airport. One friend even coined Santiago as ‘an irrelevancy’.

Well that made me even more determined to go. After all it’s an entirely different country (from Brazil and Argentina where I’d previously been) which meant new ingredients, cooking styles and traditional dishes. There would have to be something new and delicious for me to eat I reasoned. Plus the country produces pisco and I live on pisco sours.

When I landed in Santiago after a few weeks in luminous Brazil, it was raining and cold. People were burrowed under coats, the sky was grim and the fierce rain forced me to take cabs when I otherwise would always walk. It wasn’t a great start. But once I bought a scarf and started to explore, I soon found my foodie groove.

I easily ate a week’s worth of food in three days and these were my highlights.

Another ceviche… this one from a tiny seafood joint in Valparaiso

Ceviche

If I had to live on one dish for the rest of my life, this would be it. I’ve always loved the zing and wholesomeness of a good ceviche, and appreciate how uncomplicated it is. As a country that’s all coastline, Chile excels in fresh and delicious seafood, including many species of fish you can’t get elsewhere.

I ate ceviche in a little seafood joint in Valparaiso, at a pokey little stall in the fish markets and in a seafood restaurant and every time it was on point. Never too fancy, never overloaded with ingredients, just fresh slivers of fish and maybe prawn, heavy with the weight of the citrus it had soaked up to ‘cook’ the fish, and peppered with chili, garlic, red pepper, red onion and a sprinkling of coriander. Sensational every time.

A classic pisco sour from Chpe Libre

Pisco sour

I have single handedly increased pisco distribution amongst Sydney bars. I’ve learnt that if you badger a bartender enough they will eventually start stocking your favourite spirit and making your favourite cocktail. Of course I didn’t have that problem in Chile as it’s the national tipple.

Christopher makes me (another) pisco sour

My favourite pisco bar was Chpe Libre (Chpe coming from a merging of ‘Chile’ and ‘Peru’) which called itself the Républica Independiente del Pisco, i.e. the imaginary diplomatic heart of the pisco regions of Chile and Peru. It therefore served pisco sours made from Chilean and Peruvian pisco, and while people make a fuss about the difference, I struggled to really identify specific flavours. Maybe because of the competing citrus, sugar and egg wash going on in the glass or maybe because I drank too many to really remember!

A classic pino empanada

Empanadas

After spending time in Argentina I thought I’d had my fill of empanadas but it turns out I have a second stomach for them. I also like the Chilean take on this ubiquitous South American hand held food. Their meat version, ‘pino’, isn’t just made with ground beef but is spiked with onions, raisins, black olives and a surprise (to me) of hard-boiled egg, which really elevated the flavour.

A mix of empanadas with fillings including beef and octopus

I also tried a version with octopus which I had my doubts about but was delicious. A former President of Chile once referred to creating ‘a revolution with the flavour of red wine and the scent of an empanada’, which sounds exactly like a movement I could get behind. Read More