Monday, February 13, 2012

Moqueca in Addis Ababa? - Brazilian Cuisine in Africa

Addis Ababa
Until fairly recently, Brazilian cooks and chefs often exhibited a tendency to devalue local Brazilian cuisine and to rely on Italian or French recipes, menus and techniques when they wanted to appeal to a sophisticated clientele. Sure, local holes-in-the-wall served true Brazilian food - always had done and always will do was their motto - but big-city restaurants that wanted to indulge and impress their clients gilded their menus with such dishes as vichyssoise, risotti, crêpes Suzette and tiramisù.

Not today. The best and most creative chefs strive to outdo each other in offering authentic Brazilian cuisine - local recipes, local techniques and local ingredients. As in many other fields 21st century Brazilians have developed a new pride in Brazilian cooking and gastronomy.  One restaurant might source an artisanal cheese that's been made the same way for three or four centuries in one remote location, while another restaurant might find in another location a fruit that's been eaten in a small territory for three or four millennia.

The Brazilian government now recognizes the importance, both domestically and internationally, of supporting Brazilian food culture. It sponsors local food festivals and gastronomic events, its tourism department has a sophisticated approach to culinary tourism, and its economic development branch supports Brazilian food exports.

Currently, thanks to the Brazilian embassy in Addis Ababa, three prominent Brazilian chefs are in Ethiopia to showcase Brazilian gastronomy in the high-altitude African capital. During the Brazilian food festival in Addis Ababa from February 03 to 27, the three chefs - Mara Salles, Paulo Machado e Eduardo Duó - will offer a Brazilian menu at one of the Addis Ababa's best restaurants, the Kuriftu Diplomat, at lunch and dinner. In addition to the festival at the restaurant, the chefs will also work with cooks from hospitals from the interior of Ethiopia to develop a healthy and sustainable food programs for those institutions.
The Brazilian culinary team

The chefs have taken it upon themselves to try to showcase Brazilian food using Ethiopean ingredients where possible, although they carried with them certain essential ingredients that cannot be found in Ethiopia, such as manioc flour, dendê oil and cachaça. For example, they will be offering a very traditional Brazilian moqueca (a spicy fish stew) but will use fresh-water fish from the River Nile rather than a frozen imported product. Even though Brazil is one of the world's largest coffee producers, they will serve Ethiopian coffee to honor the country where coffee was first drunk.

In addition to presenting Brazilian food at its best, the chefs say that they will also take advantage of the opportunity to learn about Ethiopian cuisine, which is almost completely unknown in Brazil. Maybe on their return journey they will be bringing back new and exciting Ethiopian ingredients to offer in their own restaurants back in Brazil - just one more fruit of this interesting and forward-looking program of showcasing Brazilian cuisine to the world, and one more link in the increasingly connected global world of gastronomy.

Based on material from Brazilian website Gastronomia & Negócios

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