Brazil’s culinary style is influenced by the diverse people who inhabit the country: the Amerindians who still live in tribes in the Amazon, the Portuguese conquerors who arrived centuries ago, the nearly 5 million African slaves brought here to work on the sugar cane plantations, and later, German, Italian, Japanese, and Arab immigrants who arrived by the millions. All these influences have converged to create different culinary styles that are spread out across the country’s regions.
There is no one single culinary system that’s popular all over the country; rather, each region of Brazil has its own distinctive food preferences. The North of the country for instance, is the home of the Amazon, and as such, the cuisine here relies heavily on fish and fruits. The Northeast has strong Portuguese and African influences. The South, and more specifically the Southeast, has what is probably the most distinctive style of cooking here – lots of meat from the bovine-rich pampas, mingled with the culinary influences of the European immigrants who settled in this region in vast numbers. This cuisine is identified most strongly with the country, and if you look for Brazilian food on your medical tourism vacation, you will usually be pointed to a restaurant that serves food from the southeastern part of the country.
Rice and beans are popular staples, and meat is plentiful in the form of succulent steaks, feijoada (a meat and bean dish), and chourico (a kind of spiced sausage). In fact, standard Brazilian fare consists of food that traditionally appeals to a European and North American palates – there are steaks aplenty, lots of fish and sausages, always accompanied by a side dish of beans. One thing you can expect with every Brazilian meal is farofa – manioc root flour roasted with oil. You’ll find the coarse flour either heavenly or sawdust-like – it all comes down to personal preference. Ranging in texture from longer grains to a fine powder, farofa is used to enhance the flavors of meats and stews.
For the homesick medical tourism traveler, there is enough to tickle the taste buds. From Lebanese falafel stands to sushi bars to Chinese noodle stands and beyond – there is a large variety of more familiar culinary experiences to be had in major locales like Rio or Sao Paulo.
Brazilians are not known to rush through their meals – you’ll find dining here is a leisurely experience, and food is meant to be savored and enjoyed. As a medical tourism traveler you’ll find the complementary breakfasts in your hotel to be lavish spreads, although the natives themselves breakfast lightly. In addition, dinner is usually served late – Brazilians typically eat between 10 and 11 pm. Beer is the drink of choice in this sultry land, and you can buy it pretty much anywhere; not just in bars. Coffee is the other national drink. Even if you're not a huge caffeine fan, it's worth sampling Brazilian beans whenever you get a chance.