Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is That Catupiry in My Sushi? or What's a Hot Filadelfia??

Brazil is crazy for sushi. And when I say crazy, I mean it literally. Due to the presence of a large population of Japanese-Brazilians, descendants of immigrants from Japan in the early 20th century, even smaller cities in Brazil are likely to have a Japanese restaurant or snack-bar selling sushi. Supermarkets have fresh take-out sushi counters, and most self-service buffet restaurants will have a large selection of sushi. And this is in a country that is not accustomed to eating much "ethnic" food - apart from Italian and Japanese cuisine, most Brazilians are unfamiliar with the cooking of other cultures.

The reason I used the word crazy when describing how Brazilians are about sushi is that they have taken the traditional Japanese style of food called sushi and made it something entirely their own. There are kinds of sushi eaten in Brazil that would shock most Japanese and probably cause the most discriminating Japanese sushi purists to have an apoplexy.

In the most recent posts of Flavors of Brazil, I've been discussing Brazilian cream cheeses, and in particular one called Catupiry. You wouldn't think this would segue naturally into a discussion of sushi, but it does when you're talking about Brazil. For one of the most popular things to put into sushi is cream cheese, either the generic product which goes under the name of requeijão, or the more distinctive Catupiry. Some of the most popular sushis, rolls in particular, showcase cream cheese along with expected sushi ingredients like salmon, shrimp and tuna, and less expected ones, like strawberries and mangoes. Since the entire idea of dairy products is unfamiliar in Japanese cuisine, these sushis are oddities indeed.

The Brazilian sushi which strays the farthest from its roots in Japan is something called the "hot filadelfia" ("hot" here being pronounced ah-chee). Since we're talking cream cheese in this posting, maybe you've been able to figure out the "filadelfia" part of the name - it's the Portuguese spelling of Philadelphia, as in cream cheese! As for the "hot" they are talking temperature, not spice, as these sushi rolls are deep fried to a crispy brown prior to being served. (Deep frying gives them a nice crunch, and melts the cream cheese inside).

If you think about it, Chicago Deep Dish pizza is as far away from the original Neopolitan pizza as "hot filadelfia" is from it's Japanese roots, so there's nothing to sneer at when faced with a plate of "hot filadelfia". Try one if you're ever offered one - perhaps, like me, you'll be surprised how delicious they are, and will grow to like them. Millions of Brazilians do - websites and blogs by and for the Brazilian diaspora are full of plaints about missing the taste of a nice, piping hot, "hot filadelfia" like you can find back home in Brazil.


  1. Here in BA it's much the same - cream cheese in every sushi roll - it's often hard to convince them to make you a roll without the stuff. Now and again it's okay, but to be honest, I'll take cream cheese with smoked salmon on a bagel, it has no place in a sushi roll for my tastes....

  2. I didn't realize that the "cream cheese in sushi" thing was more than a strictly Brazilian phenomenon. I frankly agree with you about the lox and bagel!

    Do they have "hot filadelfia" in Buenos Aires too?

  3. Well James, my name is Beatriz and I live in São Paulo. I don't know if you have already been in this city, but I tell you: São Paulo is a "gotta go" place if you're talking about brazilian cusine. Japanese, italian and arab retaurants are awesome, you have to try, really (and you have to go to the Mercado Municipal, it's fantastic). The pizza of this state is, in my opinion, the best in the world. And there's one thing that I found to be very strange: you called the fried sushi "hot philadelfia"? We simply call it "hot roll", at least here in São Paulo. And oh, go to a barbecue restaurant, or a "churrascaria", as we call it. It may be a surprise for you!

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  4. Thanks for all your comments Beatriz. I've been to São Paulo several times, and I enjoy it very much. If you search this blog you can find articles that I have written about Paulista pizza, about the Mercado Central, and about churrascaria. I welcome your comments on those posts. (You can also find articles on manicoba and tacaca).
    You mention that in São Paulo you call the hot sushi "hot roll." In Fortaleza, they're "hot filadelfia" but of course as you know many foods have regional names in Brazil. In Fortaleza you have macaxeira but in Rio de Janeiro the same food is aipim. Here we have salsão but in Rio they call it aipo. There are many more examples.

  5. ブラジル式の寿司って日本の伝統的な寿司よりも美味しい場合があります。静岡ではブラジル式なお寿司が日本に逆輸入されて影響されています。それでブラジル式のお寿司をまた日本人達の口に合う様に再変化されているお寿司が静岡で食べられます。