Flavors of the Pantanal

September 08, 2019

Pantanal Food Safaris
Pantanal Food Safaris

by Chef Paulo Machado – in reference to Pantanal Food Tourism

Fine rain, five in the morning at Barra Mansa farm, Black River Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul. This is the common scenario during the flood months (between November and February), and it forms a “feast of waters”, as the Pantanal poet Manoel de Barros, on the largest floodplain in the world. A group of six pedestrian riders in their broad hats ride toward a cattle. The order of one of the cowboys, a group of about 10 tame oxen, moves forward, toward the wintering where another three waits, restless and impatient. The trained, tame oxen are sinuous, surrounding the separate host, wrapping it around, leading it, as if detached to calm it, in the face of the final destiny that is already ahead: to be the object of the ancient sacrifice of slaughter of cattle for community food.

After slaughtered at three. Always with quick gestures, pedestrians help carry the carcass into the shed / butcher shop, where without hesitation the butcher comes into action. Decisive cuts separate the leather; the very sharp knife goes through the chaira several times and, with strokes of anatomical precision, defines and removes fillets, palettes, coffins, picanhas, and surtuns (fillet cap) while removing the forehead to make blankets of meat to be salted and dry.

Part of these pieces will be consumed in the form of the typical barbecue, preceded by the obligatory tereré (hand-served drink served in a hand-carved ox horn guampa, with well-chilled water and yerba mate). Bull’s-head, roasted whole in the fire for 12 hours, is another delicacy with which the Pantanal that enjoys the cheek, tongue and brains balances. Of extremely tasty meat, the head is a key item of the carnados and parties in the region. The base of the kitchen is beef, created since the 19th century, cassava and fish, among other animals.

The smoky taste of the meat given by the use of angico firewood in the process, opens the entourage of dishes that are found on the local table. Monteiro pork shank (local breed, bred free) and sarrabulho (viscera stew with red wine, potatoes and peppers) are delicacies found mainly on commemorative dates such as São João.

The party food comes from the isolation and great distances of the Pantanal ( where this Food Tourism takes place), it is at the meeting the time to strengthen social ties. Among the dishes, Maracajú sausage (roasted, made with fresh meat from the back of the ox), painted mojica (cassava stew), piranha broth, painted with annatto, pacu ventrecha or the same roast and crumbly fish of banana, rice cake (with local Nicola cheese) and white meat captive alligator moqueca.

Here the food culture is of strong indigenous and Paraguayan influence. Where native and the foreigner also dispute the cuisine from which come the chicken bori-bori (stew with cornmeal balls), Guarani origin, chipa (local cheese bread) and chipaguaçú or Paraguayan soup (salted corn cake ) of the border country.

Sunshine recipes, such as caribéu (cassava-based cassava stew), fried or entourage noodles and carreteiro rice, deepen the culinary dip. They are the entourage dishes, a group of pedestrians that carry cattle for days to the slaughterhouses (now increasingly rare because of transport trucks). They are made in one pan by the experienced cuca (entourage cook) with long-lasting and easily transported products.

There is not one, but 12 different wetlands, a Brazilian biome the size of the state of Ceará, divided into: Paraguay or Murtinho, Taquari, Nhecolândia, Nabileque, Aquidauana, Paiaguás, Corumbá, Miranda, Abobral or Negro, Caceres, Poconé and Barão de Melgaço.

In time, the full ritual of the flesh, accompanied by water jets of a hose, that cleans the slaughterhouse site, lasts just over two hours: it is the time needed to turn the cow from animal to food, from livestock to gastronomy. , from nature to culture.

*Learn more about our Food Tourism

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