I realize that I won’t be able to keep using the phrase, “when we were in Brazil,” forever. As days and years pass, those experiences will become less current and less relevant in my life. That saddens me a bit.
I feel I still have so much left to share of my time there. As the one year anniversary of our departure approaches next month, I’m reminded of a few things I still have yet to post about.
Not long before we moved back to the States we took one final trip to Curitiba with the intentions of heading out to Ilha do Mel again. After making the two hour drive to the coast and sitting in the car at the boat dock for about 30 minutes as it poured rain, we made the decision that while we wanted to see the island again, it wasn’t worth trekking through rain with no gear for the day.
Disappointed, we began the somber drive back to the city. As we continued we began to talk about Morretes, a place many had told us about, but that we hadn’t yet made it to. It is a historic town, nestled between the mountains on the way from Curitiba to the coast.
Many people take the scenic train from Curitiba, a bit of a local tourist excursion. After a quick Google search and a phone call we exited off the highway and began the process of reviving this mini-vacation which we thought was a complete loss only a few minutes before.
Morretes is a tourist-filled little town that is designed for such a population. However, it is not the type of tourist destination you are likely thinking of. It is popular among Brazilians from the surrounding areas, not international visitors. So while the historic display boards in the center of town do contain an English translation, we didn’t hear a word of it during our visit. We loved it.
This small city was incredibly intriguing even during a rainy, dreary day. It holds a significant amount of history for the country in relation to the days of gold discovery and its export back to Europe. However, if you ask someone why they visited Morretes you will likely get the answer “Barreado.”
Yes, they travel there for the food. My kind of people!
Barreado (ba-he-a-doo) is a traditional food from that state of Paraná, and now, Morretes is one of the only places you can find it. It’s surprising that it hasn’t spread to other areas because it was overwhelmingly popular. It was obvious everyone was there to eat it, and every single restaurant in town served it.
We ended up at Olimpo which looked to be new in town, maybe not as historic as the others, but it had a great balcony. Honestly you can’t miss it, or the other places which serve the dish. This town is completely centered on this specific food.
The meal began with an assortment of bolos – basically fried balls, most with fish or vegetable. Then there was a salad bar filled with lentil, wheat berry and mushroom salads along with fruits and vegetables. And if you were so inclined, you could have a shot from the massive jar of cachaça which was filled with marinating fruit. This was common in many of the restaurants we visited during our time in southern Brazil, but not in a jar with this much fruit!
Barreado is a meat stew made with beef, bay leaf, cilantro and other herbs. It is sealed in a clay pot to cook for 12 to 18 hours. Once at your table you eat it with mandioca (cassava, yucca) flour, rice and fried bananas.
Now this picture, I have to admit with embarrassment, is not the appropriate way to eat barreado.
You see, the waitress brought our food and asked us if we were familiar with the dish. We said no and apparently she must have slipped another question in there that we didn’t hear because she took our no to mean we didn’t want an explanation.
Only after we were halfway finished did we see a demonstration at another table. You are supposed to mix the meat with lots (and I mean lots) of mandioca flour. Stir it up and mash the meat, add broth, stir it more and then eat it with rice.
It literally looked like a meat paste when the waiter was done and I have to admit, not appetizing at all. Therefore, we kept eating it our way even after the demonstration.
I was completely surprised how much I enjoyed this dish. Usually when it comes to beef stew it all tastes the same, but the flavor of barreado really stood out from anything I’ve had before. There was an intense, rich and smoky flavor, not to mention the slow roasting made it incredibly tender with no visible fat in sight.
Along with a meal of barreado, ginger was a highlighted ingredient in the area. The small feira taking place during our visit was offering candies made of ginger and the ice cream shop we passed had a ginger flavor as well. I really wanted to try it so I was happy to learn our dessert would be bananas with ginger ice cream.
It was unique and delicious – spicy with fresh ginger and went so well with the bananas and cinnamon.
Looking back at meals like this makes me wonder how I ever complained about the food available to me in Brazil. I’m always reminded of how much I owe to the whole expat experience and the country. It taught me that my perceptions of must-have ingredients are simply that – perceptions, not at all necessities.
Considering the laborious preparation technique and equipment needed to make barreado, I doubt it is something I will ever be able to recreate. That definitely makes for one unique foodie experience that I’ll never forget.
A little more about barreado.