It is in Tiradentes, a vibrant tourist honey pot filled with Brazilian weekend visitors, that I learn about Minas Gerais cuisine.
I step into the kitchen of chef Alexandre Nascimento as he prepares the day’s dishes in the Restaurante Emporio Santo Antonio. As with other parts of Brazil the food fuses ingredients from three principal sources: the indigenous fruits and vegetables, food from Africa and also from Portugal and its colonies around the world. Alexandre pours me a kiwi caipirinha as he gets to work preparing the dishes for lunch.
He is clearly a man who loves his craft and he grins with great enthusiasm as he prepares his ingredients. “Garlic and onions are essential ingredients in Minas Gerais cuisine,” he says while pouring healthy measures of both into the frying pan. “We use peppers too, but to add flavor rather than for their spiciness.”
Fat has traditionally been the favored method of preservation, and he tells me that meat can be stored for up to six months in this method. He is busy producing a paella mineira (which contains generous quantities of pork), along with feijoada tropeiro, literally “Cattleman’s Beans,” a dish of beans, bacon and manioc flour – a key ingredient in dishes across Brazil.
Hungry from watching Alexandre at work, I take a seat in the restaurant and enjoy some of the dishes I have just watched him prepare. His wife Soraya takes charge of desserts, and bowing to the temptation of my sweet tooth, I make a respectable stab at the buffet of treats on offer.
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