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What Makes it Brazilian?What Makes it Brazilian?

February 1, 1998

3 Min Read
What Makes it Brazilian?

Food Product Design

What Makes it Brazilian?
February 1998 -- Flavor Prints   What sets one country's foods apart from those of its neighbors? To a great degree, the difference is in the spicing - the ones most frequently used and the combinations utilized with different foods. We call these habits characterizing a nation's cuisine its "flavor prints." In their way, they provide identification much like fingerprints do for humans. In this series, developed in cooperation with the American Spice Trade Association, Food Product Design explores nations' flavor prints as a guide and inspiration for food product designers.  Too many cooks did not spoil the broth in Brazil; they only made it decidedly more flavorful. The South American country's cuisine began with the resourcefulness of its native Indian cooks, then acquired European sophistication - primarily that of Portuguese origin - and finally absorbed the robust simplicity of African cooking methods. Its "flavor prints" are among the most unusual in Latin America.  Naturally, the Indians made use of indigenous ingredients - hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, pineapples, avocados, bananas, plantains, cassava and other roots, as well as beans and various shellfish. They roasted meats, and were adept at drying and salting foods. The flavors these processes imparted to their cookery became as important as the ingredients.  The Portuguese brought a love of herbs and aromatic oriental spices, which had captured European taste buds long before the New World was discovered. They, and other European immigrants, are responsible for the common use in Brazilian recipes of bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, nutmeg, thyme, onion, garlic, parsley, coriander and saffron. In addition to bringing olives, olive oil, cheeses, sausages and wine to Brazil, the Portuguese also introduced rich desserts - made with egg yolks and sugar - as well as the art of marinating foods for additional flavor.  Hot capsicum peppers were native to the New World, but they were quickly adopted by the West Africans brought to Brazil in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Though hot red pepper remains basic to many Brazilian dishes, this country's food is not as highly spiced as that of its neighboring nations. From palm, this group made dende oil, Brazil's basic cooking oil. It is dende that adds a fine nutty flavor and golden hue to so many of that nation's dishes. Africans also introduced the use of coconut milk, yams and ginger.  Fejoada completa is generally recognized as the Brazilian national dish. It is a complicated melange of beans and various cuts of pork (fresh, smoked, cured) with garnishes of vegetables (such as kale, collards and pumpkin), plus rounds of oranges and onions. Red pepper, cilantro, parsley, sherry and the flavors of various sausages provide the seasonings.  What makes it Brazilian? Dende oil, coconut milk, hot peppers, ginger, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, thyme, onion, garlic, cilantro, saffron, cardamom and parsley. The nation's preparation and cooking methods represent another flavor factor - from grilling/barbecuing to marinating, salting and drying. Specialties of the people who came to Brazil from elsewhere also play a part - especially Portuguese cheeses and sausages.
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