When a Brazilian lacks energy and is depressed (which happens sometimes, believe me), he/she reaches instinctively for some jewels of comfort cuisine. Here is my list. Did I miss something?
1 Romeu e Julieta – The combination of Minas cheese (a white solid-but-shaky delight) with goiabada (a block of guava sweet) is a favorite of Brazilian children. Given the contrast between both tastes and colors, I would suggest renaming this desert after another Shakespeare’s play: Othelo and Desdemona.
2 Pão de queijo – More than one tourist visiting the country includes it in the to-do list. Typical of the state of Minas Gerais, this little yellow cheese flavored roll must be eaten very hot, if possible together with a nice espresso. Made of cassava or corn flour, they can be found pretty much everywhere in the country. Try to make it yourself, following this bilingual recipe published by Sonia Althoff in her blog.
3 Sacolé – This ice candy is also known as din-din, chupa-chupa, geladinho, juju or gelinho. It’s a cheap treat sold, it seems to me, in poorer neighborhoods. You suck its thin plastic bag filled with colorful sweetened ice – and inevitably ingest some of the plastic too. There is nothing better for someone that misses Mom’s warmth. According to some sources, it’s introduction in the country is attributed to the American marines based in the Northeast during the Second World War. They had a similar salty treat used to complement their nutrition.
4 Mate com leite – My own favorite. A strong erva mate tea mixed with sugar and powdered milk. For many years, it was offered exclusively by Rei do Mate, a minuscule shop on Avenida São João, São Paulo. Surrounded by porno movie theaters, poverty and the so called Boca do Lixo (something like Trash Quarters), it was loved by journalists working downtown. Later, in the 90s, it became a franchise and now it can be found everywhere. Unfortunately, it became pasteurized and less charming. But mate com leite still gives me that extra boost when I am feeling down.
5 Caldinho de feijão – This dense bean soup is common place in bars around the country. One of the best things you can command to match a round of cachaça (the Brazilian sugar cane spirit) – reasonably healthy, warm and oh-so-Brazilian. Flavors of Brazil has a good recipe.
6 Brigadeiro – A child birthday party without brigadeiros? Unheard of. This round, dark chocolate sweet, covered in little chocolate sprinkles, remind Brazilians of the best of their childhood. This is one of the few comfort food dishes in this post (together with sacolé) that can be made no matter where you are, because it doesn’t demand exotic ingredients. Here is a recipe from Maria-Brazil.
7 Empadinha – Mini-pie filled with palmito/ heart of palms (or açaí or pupunha heart of palms, once the Atlantic rainforest heart of palms is becoming rare and protected by environmental laws). It always hides one olive – and this explains the expression “colocar azeitona na empada do outro”, meaning, working towards the glory of somebody else (that won’t give you your due credit). These days, you can find a huge variety of empadinhas, made of chicken or cheese, for instance. Curious? you can try this recipe.
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