Destination Foodie: Rio de Janeiro

Like Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts and this is reflected as much in its people as it is in the cuisine. Just as European, AmerIndian and African skin tones mix and meld to create a unique populace, these three worlds also combine to create the unique gastronomic adventure that is Rio.

Brazil is a meat-lover’s delight. A fair share of every Rio meal comprises of huge portions of meat, usually accompanied by rice when not served as a stew.

Sometimes, premium cuts are seasoned with just coarse salt and grilled over charcoal or wood to infuse it with a heavenly smoky flavor. If you prefer your meat on a stick, sausages and chicken hearts are the favorites at home while pork, lamb and wild boar will make up restaurant fare. Traditional barbecue restaurants known as churrascaria are the best place to discover the carnivore in you.

If you are a fan of seafood, try Moqueca (moo-ke-ka), a popular fish stew popular at coastal areas across the country. Usually cooked in a clay pot to seal in the flavor of the accompanying onions, diced tomatoes and coriander, it goes perfectly with rice, especially when accompanied by peppers and coconut milk. You can just imagine the blissful combination of scents that assail the senses when moqueca is served.

Another stalwart of Rio cuisine is feijoada. Adapted from the staple food of slaves, the modern version combines the original stewed beans and crispy potato in pork gravy with crispy pork crackling, sliced orange, shredded kale and farofa (toasted cassava flour). Feijoada is an especially popular weekend lunch dish.

To discover the complete Rio palate as a local, you have to venture into the streets. Street fare is unbelievably delicious and fresh sweets or savory snacks await at virtually every other corner. Two of the best to try are Pastels and Tapioca.

Pastels are hot pastry pockets filled with steaming meat cheese and heart of palm. It is best enjoyed with freshly-pressed sugarcane juice which is widely available and wildly popular. Tapioca is a fried crepe with a crunchy shell and thick liquid center. It is made from cassava flour and shredded coconut and tastes best complemented with savory cheese or a combination of sweet cinnamon bananas and condensed milk.

The acai fruit is popularly accepted as a super-food across the world but Rio is one of the best places to try the multitude of variations in which this Amazon native may be served. From simple juices to sorbet to even acai beer and acai vodka, Rio never fails to present this worldwide favorite in a new and exciting form.