by Paulo Machado
It was still late summer in Brazil. At dawn he received the e-mail: “After learning about his various achievements around the world spreading the national cuisine, we want to invite you to hold the 1st Festival of Brazilian Cuisine in China. Signed Embassy of Brazil in Beijing.” Emotion, ecstasy, challenge … Cooking in the other half of the world for that ancient culture.
Settlement in the land of the Great Wall. All the ingredients he had brought from Brazil arrived in the Chinese capital safe and sound. For me it was in the city of the future. Everything uber, from technology to tradition and pollution. With me I took Chef Felipe Ribenboim as a faithful squire for that task of serving a menu that I studied, made, and served there. That first day we received a group of 120 Chinese who came from the countryside to eat our Brazilian menu. They arrived hungry after attending the first part of a congress held at the Gran Hyatt Hotel where we cooked. Watching that “guys” I realized how uncontrollable hungry people are. Chinese customs for serving at a buffet draw attention. Even warned, the diners didn’t care, they mixed beans with quindim, bobo with barreado. Salads were, at most, observed.
The Chinese did not know Brazilian cuisine. I was ecstatic, observing so much that a culture of the East does not know that of the West. In subsequent days I could see that there was a gastronomic curiosity about our culture for the Chinese. The restaurant lounge almost always worked with the house full. After those 15 days of Brazilian buffet cuisine, a balance of over 500 diners (yes, everything in China is populous), 2 tasting menus for over 20 journalists, locks and guests.
I left for Shanghai, the westernmost of the eastern cities. I was invited by Casa do Livro, a worldwide Lusophone association, which promotes events in common with the Portuguese language. I gave a lecture about our kitchen. The lecture took place at a Brazilian steakhouse called Latina. On my arrival in town to have lunch in a typical Shanghai restaurant. My Chinese hostess took the menu and didactically showed me the food on the menu (all written in Chinese and some with pictures that didn’t help much because I didn’t understand what it was, it was written in Greek for me). It caught my attention because she was asked several things at random. What happened next was a real festival for my mouth: sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, sour, hot, cold flavors. All very tasty. Jacas mixed with pork, everything was very tasty. Some indecipherable things. Yeah, I didn’t know much about that culture either, and maybe it would take years to start assimilating that food. Some restaurants in Cantao, for example, serve live animal raw material. The diner can choose from: frogs, frogs, alligators, horses and small animals as small mollusks.
I visited one of them in Guangzou, southern China and it was unforgettable. The Brazilian cuisine festivals that have been taking place every year since my trip are already going to its 5th edition. With each passing year, the event becomes more popular with Chinese and foreigners passing by and balancing with our tucupi on Peking duck, or vatapá on pork bum. Liked? Is there a cheese bread there?