The Welcome Flavours
Pernambuco celebrates the magical fusion of native Brazilian, African and European cultures.
Celebrating the magical fusion of native Brazilian, African and European cultures, food traditions in Pernambuco have been gloriously preserved through generations. Cherished by locals and tourists alike, the Pernambucana food clings to the mood of welcome and abundance. From lavish restaurants in Recife to the street food vendors of Olinda, once you have indulged in the warm flavours of this truly diverse land, there is no turning back.
Dive into ‘the golden pot of seafood’ – the wonders of a place caressed by the sea, heavenly combined into a single meal. Cooked and served on a clay pot, this zesty stew shelters a variety of fresh seafood such as fish, prawns, crayfish, squid and mussels, blissfully immersed in a tropical golden pool. Coconut milk gives it a smooth, velvety texture, the authentic gravy thickened with manioc flour dates back to Colonial times and that, along with some white rice, announces lunchtime. Make sure to have a hammock available for a post-caldeirada nap.
Photo credit: Ilha dos Navegantes, Boa Viagem
Carne de Sol na Chapa
You could hardly get more Pernambucano than wallowing in the joys of a Carne de Sol na Chapa. The meat itself, a sun-dried then grilled sirloin, should be praised just as it is. However, it can always benefit from some extra delectable adornments. Traditionally served on a griddle with His Majesty the Coalho (curd) cheese gently placed on top, along with a sweet, tender whole onion, this dish is a showstopper. With a broad list of side dish options that include the local variety of cowpea beans, white rice, fried cassava, pumpkin or scrambled eggs farofa (toasted manioc flour) gorgeously dressed with traditional clarified butter and vinaigrette, ‘the more the merrier’ seems to be the right way to go.
The Best in Town: Olinda @ Casa de Noca
Nearly every corner of Recife and Olinda shelters a tapioca vendor. Resembling an omelette both in shape and in the range of filling alternatives, this highly popular snack is made with cassava starch, which gives it a mild, peculiar taste that welcomes a variety of fillings. From the traditional savoury choices of butter, cheese and shredded coconut to the sweet combinations of banana, chocolate and guava jam with cheese, this typical Northeastern Brazilian treat has become a national mania.
The Best in Town: Olinda @ Alto da Sé street stalls
Photo credit: CC
‘The Beach Combo’ - Caldinho de Feijão + Filé de Agulha Frita + Queijo Assado
Get the quintessential ‘Recife experience’ by relishing the seaside treats of Boa Viagem. As you watch the lazing sunbathers, a symphony of voices seem to encourage one thing: greed. Food vendors in Boa Viagem will introduce you to a typical day on the beach and, to get things started, watch out for the guy carrying a bag of thermos bottles. There it is, the caldinho de feijão, a rich and smooth bean soup served on individual plastic cups with your choice of pork scratchings, olives, sweetcorn, diced beef jerky and one – two on a lucky day – tender quail eggs. If you’re in the fishy mood, a portion of agulha frita will definitely satisfy your cravings. Take your time to enjoy a plate of pan-fried battered garfish fillets, kindly dressed with fresh lime juice before each bite. Finally, a day on the beach is not fulfilled until you have a classic: grilled Coalho cheese. The only complication is the trying question – oregano or molasses topping? Take the latter by ordering a queijo assado com mel and go home with the best of your beach food memories.
There are few more popular ways to end a meal in a restaurant than with a luscious Cartola. Fried ripe bananas topped with a generous layer of local queijo manteiga, a super-buttery, silky yellow cheese lavishly sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
What else is there to say?
Macaxeira com Charque
This dish is, undeniably, a major representative of the everyday food of Pernambuco. Its seemingly never-ending purposes – it is actually served as an appetizer, breakfast, lunch or supper – and its all-embracing quality, cheap and cheerful, makes it a real cultural tradition. The basic combination of boiled cassava and finely shredded, pan-fried Charque jerky, tossed in butter and onions provide you with the ultimate popular meal. It is, quite simply, exquisite.
Bolo de Rolo
Listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Pernambuco, the bolo de rolo is a moist, meltingly tender rolled cake with an enthralling singularity – an impressive number of layers, the result of a true artisan work. Recife’s best-loved cake is traditionally made white, filled with guava jam and dusted with caster sugar. Alternative flavours include chocolate cake and doce de leite (dulce de leche) filling, but according to the bolo de rolo lovers, nothing can beat the original one. Gift-wrapped cakes and mini versions make it the perfect edible souvenir.
The Best in Town: Recife & Airport @ Casa dos Frios delicatessen