Brazil is on everyone’s lips right now. The 2014 FIFA World Cup, on from June 12th to July 13th with matches in 12 cities throughout the country, is turning this already sultry and seductive destination into a hot topic. For one month Brazil will be heaving with football fans, but where are they going and what will they be eating along the way?
The city of Manaus in northern Brazil will host four World Cup matches. It sits at the point where the black waters of the Rio Negro meet the murky brown waters of the Rio Solimões to form the Amazon River. What makes this confluence unlike any other is that for nearly six kilometres the waters continue to flow side by side without mixing.
Not only famous for this natural water phenomenon, Manaus also has a few local dishes that will surely tempt the tastebuds of every football fan.
For obvious reasons, freshwater fish forms a large part of the local diet in Manaus. There are more than 1200 species in the Amazon River and tambaqui, a firm white fish used to make caldeirada de tambaqui, is one of the favourites.
Caldeirada is a rustic and hearty Portuguese stew described by Jean Anderson in her cookbook Food of Portugal as being, ”a grand and glorious fish muddle that varies from town to town and depends on what the fishermen have managed to catch”.
In Manaus, that fish is tambaqui. The Portuguese influence on Brazilian cuisine shines through in its seafood dishes and when tambaqui is seasoned with lemon, garlic, vinegar, black pepper, paprika, and salt, and put in a pot with onion, hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, and boiled eggs, the result is something that every football fan will be fired up about.
São Paulo, located in southern Brazil, is home to six World Cup matches. All eyes will be on Brazil’s largest city when they host the opening match between the home team and Croatia on June 12th.
Fans here should be sure to try coxinha (little chicken thighs), a popular street and snack food across the country, but one said to originate in São Paulo. Shredded chicken, together with various spices and seasonings, is encased inside a flavoursome dough, moulded into the shape of a chicken thigh, rolled in breadcrumbs, and deep fried until golden brown. Enjoy at your own risk – they’re addictive and taste best with a splash of hot sauce or fresh tomato salsa. Don’t forget to add a cold beer.
Most people wouldn’t consider coxinha to be a gourmet snack but the ones from Attimo, a restaurant located at Rua Diogo Jacome 341, just might change your mind.
You can’t have Brazil without beaches and Fortaleza, in the northeast of the country, offers those and more. The city boasts over 25 kilometres of urban beaches, each with their own quirks, and you can be forgiven for forgetting about the World Cup and instead spending your day lounging in the sun.
Traditional wooden fishing boats called jangadas launch from Mucuripe and return each morning with a fresh-from the sea catch, while Iracema attracts the party crowd. Praia do Futuro is said to be the best beach for surfing and sunning and is well-known for the cafes and restaurants built on the sand.
One dish that you can’t leave Fortaleza without trying is paçoca, but be sure you’re getting the right one.
In much of the country, paçoca is a sweet treat made of ground peanuts, cassava flour, sugar, and salt, but paçoca will not satisfy your sweet tooth in Fortaleza. Here it is a savoury dish made with carne de sol – sun-dried beef.
Traditionally, the beef was roasted over hot coals and then ground together in a mortar with cassava flour and minced red onion until it was completely shredded. It was eaten out of necessity by those herding cattle for weeks and months at a time but has now become a favourite dish of the entire region.
Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and it spans three time zones, from GMT-2 to GMT-4. Its capital city is Brasília, its currency is the Brazilian Real (BRL), and you might find it useful to brush up on your Portuguese.
Its size and other geographical factors ensure there are more than enough variations in climate and temperature to keep you guessing. Err on the side of caution and always have a rain poncho, sunglasses, and sunscreen in your bag.
If you are arriving in Brazil from outside of South America, your first port of call will likely be either Galeão International Airport (GIG) in Rio de Janeiro or Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) in São Paulo.
TAM Airlines offers a Brazil Air Pass for up to nine domestic flights but it must be purchased before you arrive in the country. The prices varies but it is often more cost-effective than purchasing single tickets after your arrival.
Boats from Peru and Venezuela are another method of reaching Brazil, as are buses from Argentina, Uruguay, and all other neighbouring countries.
You won’t mange to see it all in Brazil but if you can, take the time to escape the cities and enjoy these natural beauties.
Iguaçu Falls – Part of the Iguaçu National Park, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, the Iguaçu Falls are a stunning series of waterfalls along Brazil’s border with Argentina. Words simply don’t do justice to their beauty.
Fernando de Noronha – This tropical island archipelago is several hundred kilometres off the Brazilian coast in the Atlantic Ocean – not day-trip material. While the beaches are sensational, divers say the underwater life is even more so.
Pantanal – This is the largest wetland in the world and your chances of seeing wildlife are infinitely better here than in the Amazon rainforest.
Visit Brazil will guide you through the country’s cultural highlights, as well as provide a wealth of practical information.