Surprising Culinary Delights in Belém

After living in Los Angeles for several years and having almost every type of food imaginable at my fingertips, I admit I’ve become a food snob.  While I love rice, beans, and fruit, Brazil hasn’t always been the best to me in regards to cuisine, but the north has really stepped up the game and there’s been some definite surprises.  I’m sure there’s still more to discover since the northeast is supposedly the heart of the Brazilian kitchen.

Açaí – At Its Origins

You can’t talk about the best foods from Brazil without mentioning this fruit.  I love when Brazilians ask if I’ve ever had açaí; the news hasn’t arrived here that parts of the U.S. (definitely California) are obsessed with this berry for its supposed magical weight-loss abilities.  That being said açaí has always been better in Brazil and, here in the north, where the berry has its origins I’ve had the chance to eat/drink it in a variety of forms.  Sorry, this is not for weight loss!

açaí, brazilian açaí

Add a bunch of sugar, tapioca, and ice… this is the Brazilian way to eat açaí.

With tapioca (another traditional food here) and tons of sugar.

amazon beer, açai beer, micro brew

Açai flavored beer and other concoctions brewed up by the Amazonas Beer restaurant at Estação das Docas.

Brewed inside my beer.

Cairu sorvete, açaí ice cream

“Coffee Break” and “Açaí” with “Morango do Amor” ice cream from Cairu Sorveteria — the best in Brazil.

Made into a delectable ice cream concoction by the sorveteria Cairu (Purportedly the best ice cream in Brazil).

I even saw açaí in its raw berry form for the first time — not so tasty.

açaí berry, fruit baskets

Bushels and bushels of açaí … oh my!

Tacacá

We tried this in Roraima and were dreaming of it all the way on the boat so, of course, our days in Belém included a tacacá stop.  It’s not the most appetizing looking dish but this soup is an infusion of salt, onion, garlic, cilantro, and the broth mixed with mandioca gum.  You eat it piping hot with shrimp and the Amazon secret ingredient jambu.  There was also a tacacá pastel available at Amazonas Beer, which is apparently delicious, but they were all out when we got there.

tacacá, amazon indigenous food, brazilian cuisine

Served steaming hot and with shrimp, tacacá should definitely be on your menu despite the somewhat unappetizing look.

Maniçoba

This is another indigenous recipe you can taste in the north also involving shrimp.  It also doesn’t look very good photographed, but it’s the taste that counts.  Mandioca leaves are prepared for a week to get rid of the poisonous elements and then served with rice, farinha de mandioca, and pimenta (finally a place in Brazil that likes spicy food!).

maniçoba, brazilian cusine

Another dish that doesn’t look like much, but don’t let appearances fool you!

Cachaça de Jambu

Doesn’t matter how many caipirinhas you’ve had, this is a whole new spin on cachaça that’s unique to the north.  Jambu is an Amazonian herb — native to Pará, Amazonas, Acre, and Rondônia — that’s widely used in the cooking.  It’s also poisonous if you don’t happen to process it the correct way.

cachaça de jambu, jambu cachaça, shots, alcohol, bar meu garoto

This super strong cachaça is infused with a poisonous amazonian herb, jambu, that’s strangely delicious and super cheap!

It was actually invented in Belém at the end of 2011 by the owner of the Bar Meu Garoto, Leodoro Porto, so that’s where we went to try it.  Even with its recent invention, the drink is starting to spread out to some other states.

Bar meu garoto, cachaça, bars, drinks, pinga

A fine selection of cachaça and pingas (fruit infused cachaça) at Bar Meu Garoto in Belém, Pará.

The shot itself is served up with a chaser that’s a kind of meaty sauce.  After a sip or two your lips become numb and after 4 shots we were wasted (or at least Phyllis was).  This is definitely a must before leaving Belém.

Bar meu garoto, belem bars, cachaça de jambu

The unassuming “Bar Meu Garoto” is home to one of Brazil’s newest and most fabulous cachaça delights.

Enjoy!

Want to share this?