What's For Dinner? Try Brazilian : The Salt Brazilian food used to be treated as the poor cousin of more renowned European cuisines. But not anymore. Brazilian food is having its moment in the sun. And chefs think that with the World Cup and the Olympics coming, it's going to get even bigger.
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What's For Dinner? Try Brazilian

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What's For Dinner? Try Brazilian

What's For Dinner? Try Brazilian

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With the World Cup and the Olympics on the horizon, Brazilians hope to give the world a new taste of their country. Outside Brazil, the country is most famous for its barbecue, or churrascarria. But at home, a new movement celebrating regional food is booming.

Here's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro with a sampling of what's on offer.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: So we are at the restaurant Consulado Minero which specializes in food from Minas Gerais. And right in front of me is a huge bubbling pot of beans.

(Foreign language spoken)

HELVECIO OLIVEIRA: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Helvecio Oliveira, the owner of the restaurant.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we've just been invited to taste the food here. It's fried. It's salty. But it's really tasty.

OLIVEIRA: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Food from Minas is simple food, he tells me. The State of Minas is named after its mines, it brought gold to what was then the capital Rio. So the food had to be easy to transport because it was taken on mules for days. So we use for example a lot of salted beef and beans. And its humble beginnings he says gave food from Minas a bad rap.

OLIVEIRA: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: People thought of it as poor people's food he says.

And that wasn't only the case of food from Minas but Brazilian food generally. Even though the continent sized country has 26 states, all with different histories and flavors, like many post colonial nations people looked down on what was native. A good restaurant had to be French, Italian or Portuguese but certainly not Brazilian.

MARA SALLES: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mara Salles is the chef/owner of Tordesilhas in Sao Paulo. She was one of the first chefs to take Brazilian food seriously. When she started, she tells me there were no Brazilian chefs focusing on Brazilian gastronomy.

SALLES: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I started teaching at Brazil's first chef school in 2002. It was the very beginning of the Brazilian gastronomy movement. People at the time were into other cuisines, she says and the chefs had to have worked in other countries to be respected. I had none of that. It was really hard to make them see that Brazil has a great diversity, she says.

Then something happened.

SALLES: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When the Brazilian boom began a decade ago, Brazilians started gaining self esteem. Everything Brazilian became more well known outside the country, she says, which made it more valuable inside the country.

Professionally run restaurants serving regional food from all over Brazil began popping up. And now some of the best restaurants in the world are here. This year, Alex Atala's DOM focusing on Amazonian ingredients was named among the top 10.

And many restaurants are becoming commercial successes that have an eye to the international market. Coco Bambu is a chain of restaurants that focuses on the coastal cuisine of the State of Ceara, that means a lot of shrimp, fish, creamy sauces. Arthur Moraes and Ronald Aguiar are the 20-something partners behind the brand.

ARTHUR MORAES: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brazilians are traveling the whole world now and they eat at the best restaurants. And in a way people are looking for something new, Aguiar explains, and regional Brazilian restaurants are new in a way.

In five years their chain has grown from one location to eight. And Moraes says Brazilian regional cuisine will go global with the World Cup and the Olympics. Reservations at their restaurants are already sold out for month of the world Cup in 2014. Next year, the group is planning to open a branch in the heart of Miami.

MORAES: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Arthur Moraes says, we are taking that new Brazilian taste, that new Brazilian gastronomy that Brazilians love to a wider audience.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo.



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