A taste of local South American flavours

Photo courtesy of Boteco Brasil

According to local restaurateurs, there is much more to Latin American food than tacos, even in Vancouver. Two Vancouver chefs elaborate on the flavours of Brazilian and Peruvian food.

Eliane Trovo, owner of Boteco Brasil, a Brazilian restaurant in Vancouver, says that Brazilian food is exceedingly undervalued on the international food scene.

“A lot of people know nothing about our food, and once they try it, they really enjoy it,” says Trovo.

According to Trovo, people are surprised how dishes based on regular ingredients carry unusual flavors:

“They enjoy simple things such as the way we make our rice.”

Trovo says Brazilian rice is usually fried with garlic, adding a twist to the regular flavor of the grain. She says Brazilian cuisine is all about getting the most of the main ingredient, such as only using spices to elevate the components.

“We use a lot of garlic, onions, salt, and pepper,” she says.

Although some might think that Brazilian food is as spicy as the food of other Latin American countries, Trovo says Brazilian food is not about the heat.

“I would say the main difference from other cuisines are the types of spices we use. Mexican food is definitely spicier. Brazilian food, in general, is not very hot. However, the food from northeast Brazil is definitely hotter,” she says.

According to Trovo, the influence from Africa in the northwest region of Brazil brings the heat to a higher level, but not even close to the other Latin cuisines.

“Brazilian food is a very complex cuisine. It is a very large country,” adds Trovo, indicating that it can be difficult to describe typical Brazilian food.

From the southern region comes the traditional Brazilian barbecue. Trovo says the meat is cut in an entirely different way, resulting in a rich mouthful of startling flavors.

“People enjoy the way we do our meat, our picanha, a cut close to the sirloin. The only spice we use is pure salt. Because of the cut of picanha, there is a lot a fat around, and the way we grill it we make it so the fat gets on the meat along with the salt. It tastes very good,” she says.

The southeastern part of Brazil has a soul food type of cuisine, says Trovo, with lots of deep fried dishes and a hearty flavor that reminds everyone of home, even if you are not even from Brazil. Pão de queijo, a bun made of cheese, is a popular Brazilian snack from this part of the country.

Feijoada. | Photo courtesy of Boteco Brasil

“People love cheese buns because they are tasty and gluten-free,” Trovo points out. “Even though people are usually concerned about eating deep fried food, a lot of customers come to our restaurant and make an exception for a coxinha. It is a favourite in Vancouver – people love it!”

Coxinha is a mashed potato dough filled with shredded chicken and spices, then breaded and deep fried. Trovo says another crowd-pleaser is feijoada, one of the delicacies Brazilians from all over the country are most proud of. It is a black bean pork stew cooked in a pressure cooker for several hours, served with rice and kale. Farofa, a dish made of cassava flour, toasted with butter and bacon, tags along with the other garnishes.

Trovo says decadent desserts also get plenty of attention from both regular customers and new ones trying them for the first time. Condensed milk is the base of most creamy desserts such as pudim, brigadeiro and beijinho.

“People love our beijinho and brigadeiro,” says Trovo of the mini truffles made of condensed milk and either coconut or chocolate powder, respectively.

On to Peru

Peru might not be as big as Brazil, but Shelome Bouvette, co-owner and chef at Chicha Restaurant, says its culinary traditions certainly are.

“Peruvian cuisine reflects local practices and ingredients including influences from the indigenous population such as the Inca. It also includes cuisine brought in by immigrants from Asia, Europe, and West Africa,” explains Bouvette.

She says even traditional dishes like ceviche are a result of Peruvian fusion.

“Ceviche comes from the Japanese immigrants and chifa comes from the Chinese. Peruvian food is a pioneer because over 500 years of fusion has taken place for our cuisine to become what it is today,” adds Bouvette.

In fact, Bouvette says that many think Peruvian cuisine actually originated fusion food. Under the influence of Indigenous people, foreign settlers and the rich culture brought by African slaves, Peru has been mixing tendencies for centuries, infusing flavors from the world into local dishes. In the 19th century a large number of Asian immigrants arrived in Peru, taking the fusion concept to another level.

According to Bouvette, Peruvian food is trending nowadays after ‘superfoods’ became a thing.

“Most of the foods coming out of Peru are called superfoods, which includes quinoa, maca, camu camu and purple corn,” she says.

Bouvette says that Peruvian cuisine fits perfectly with Vancouverites who prefer healthy foods.

For more info on these local restaurants, please visit their websites: