Amazon Cuisine Guide

The Amazonian kitchen figures among one of the richest and most authentic in Brazil. The typical dishes use only natural and organic products, picked from the purest sources found in the amazon flora and fauna, unique to any other place in the world.

Eccentric names such as tucupi, tacacá, maniçoba, pirarucu, açaí, cupuaçu, bacuri and guaraná correspond to foods, fish or fruit which are irresistible from the first bite. By using these natural products and ingredients, which have been known for centuries among the Indians of the region, Amazonian cuisine has survived the ages practically unchanged, showing very little influence from European or African cuisine. If you want to try duck in tucupi, maniçoba or bacuri ice cream there is only one condition: forget your diet.

Dishes Duck in tucupi is roasted, then cut into pieces and boiled in tucupi, where it must simmer in the sauce for some time to acquire the flavor. Seasonings include garlic, chicory and basil. Jambu, a deliciously tart fruit, is boiled down in water with a little salt, then basted onto the duck, which is then covered by the tucupi. Pirarucu is among the most famous foods of Amazonian cuisine, and part of the regular diet. It is the largest fish in Brazil, reaching up to 2.5 meters in length and weighing up to 80 kg.

The Pirarucu is fished in the rivers of the Amazon region with hook or harpoon. Its reddish color is the origin of its name in the Tupi Indian language, ‘pirarúku ‘, which means ‘red fish’. The fresh meat is extremely tasty, and can also be dried and salted. Parts of this big fish are utilized as instruments for culinary and non culinary purposes. The dried tongue is used to grate guaraná berries to make the favorite local beverage, guaraná.

The scales are used as manicuring tools. Peixada (~peishahdah) is another favorite fish dish made with pescada amarela or tucunaré (amazonian Peacock Bass), preferably the smallish younger ones. It is important that only one kind of fish be used. ‘Chops’ of the fish are seasoned with lemon, salt and garlic. A broth is prepared with the head of the fish, parsley, onion, salt, mashed garlic and potatoes cut in half. When the potatoes begin to soften, the pieces of fish are added; the dish will be ready as soon as the potatoes have softened completely.

Caldeirada, similar to the peixada in the seasonings used and in the preparation, is made with several types of fish, and includes green vegetables. Light and nutritious, it is served with boiled eggs and manioc meal or ‘pirão’ (manioc grits), made with the broth of the Caldeirada. For those who like ‘hot’ food, add the local hot yellow pepper. Maniçoba is an exotic dish whose preparation lasts about one week, because the leaf of the maniva (the cassava plant) must be cooked for at least four days after being ground. Afterwards, salted and dried meat, bacon, salted pig’s ear, pig’s foot, smoked sausage and pork sausage are all added; practically the same ingredients of a complete feijoada (made with beans).

Maniçoba is classically accompanied with white rice, farinha-d’água (manioc flour) and hot yellow pepper to taste. Fruit Amazonian fruit is abundantly found in the flood plains of the rivers, rivulets and igarapés (narrow river channels), as well as in the highlands. With more than one hundred edible species, the regional fruit is directly responsible for the indefinable, perfected and often exotic flavors of the delicious desserts that enrich the region’s table.

Açaí is a drink extracted from the small fruit of the açaí tree, a lanky palm tree that reaches 30 meters in height and produces bunches with dozens of round pits (fruit). Purple in color, the drink is made like this: the pits of the açaí are placed in water to soften the fine peel that covers them. Soon after, the pits are kneaded with water in a clay bowl or in an appropriate machine. The mixture is then filtered in special sieves to obtain the purple liquid, thick and with an incomparable characteristic flavor. After adding sugar, tapioca meal or farinha-d’água (manioc flour), you drink it cold from a gourd or bowl with a spoon. Bacaba is a drink extracted from a different palm tree to the açaí, though it is made in the same way as açaí.

The result is a delicious and refreshing liquid of brownish color which is served chilled with sugar and tapioca meal, or farinha-d’água (manioc flour). The bacaba drink is less popular than açaí, though both are commonly used to make ice creams Cupuaçu is a cylindrical fruit, more or less 20 cm long and 13 cm in diameter. Rounded at its extremities, it is protected by a hard shell of dark brown color. Inside, there are about 50 big seeds covered entirely by a white meaty mass with a pleasant pervasive aroma and delicious sweet and sour flavor.

This classic Amazonian fruit is used to make Cupuaçu wine, ice cream, jellies, puddings, pies, creams, cakes, liqueurs, compotes, stuffing, mousses and countless other sweets. The Brazil Nut comes from the fruit of the castanheira-do-pará. This magnificent tree has remarkable dimensions: a trunk of 4 meters in diameter which reaches up to 50 meters in height. The fruit is spherical, about 11 to 14 cm in diameter, with variable weight between 700 and 1,500 grams. The round shell has a woody texture and is very hard, containing from 11 to 22 almonds or great chestnuts, covered with a thin woody shell. These chestnuts are very tasty and of high nutritious value.

Brazil nuts are often used for making sweets, fillings, cake icings, and various other dessert products. When fresh, they provide a milk which is used in the preparation of several typical dishes. Appreciated all over the world, the Brazil nut is one of the primary export products of Pará. Pará is one of the principal Amazonian states, in which the Amazon delta reaches the Atlantic Ocean. Those who adventure to the amazon to discover its many marvels will be deliciously surprised by the wonderful food.
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