Atenção! Brazil is coming to Somerville this Saturday and there will be ample opportunity to try Brazilian fare! At the Arts Council’s Brasileiro Festival (Union Square Plaza; Sept. 10, 3-7pm; free), people can nosh while soaking up the sounds of band Samba No Pé and witness a folkloric performance of a dancing bull known as Bumba Meu Boi. Local market Pão de Açúcar and nearby Rodizio Grill will be selling Brazilian BBQ and classic dishes and snacks like coxinha (chicken croquettes) and pastel de frango assado (photo at left) also will be for sale.
Elizabete Delfino (in photo below with her daughter) says that the food she’s preparing for the festival is very traditional. “My food is old fashioned but that’s why it’s good,” explains Elizabete, who hails from the state of Minas Gerais—like roughly 75% of the local Brazilian community. She continues, “I don’t follow recipes, unless it’s the first time I’m making something. Sometimes I say to myself, ‘let’s make fifty coxinha;’ then when I’m done rolling the last coxinha, I have exactly fifty—and I haven’t measured a thing!”
We met Elizabete through the Arts Council’s Intercambio Language and Culture Exchange. After a semester of gabbing in English, Portuguese and Spanish, we threw ourselves an Intercambio potluck. It was here we learned that Elizabete makes food that is nothing short of delicioso! For the Brasileiro Festival, Elizabete will whip up chicken-filled coxinha, a ubiquitous Brazilian fried snack, and pao de queijo, a Minas Gerais specialty that are like cheese popovers but made with yuca flour (also known as manioc flour). It’s only fair to warn readers that these heavenly puffs are dangerously addictive.
Festival goers will also be able to sample Elizabete’s pastel de frango assado, which is a bit like a chicken empanada and a healthy option because it is baked, not fried. The origin of the famous Brazilian pastel—stuffed with items like cheese, meat, hearts of palm, as well as sweet fillings— is disputed. Some say it was Japanese immigrants who came to Brazil and adapted Chinese fried wontons. Brazilians of Italian heritage often say pastels are a Brazilian version of calzones. There’s also a chance that pastels trace their ancestry to Indian samosas, which became a popular dish of Portuguese explorers who eventually brought them to Brazil.
Sweet-toothed customers will most likely be lured by Elizabete’s beijinho, clusters of coconut and condensed milk, and brigadeiro (in photograph), chocolate truffle-like yums that are common at children’s parties in Brazil.
To learn more about Brazilian culture in Somerville, check out Culture Club, a new Arts Council show on Somerville Community Access Television. In the second half of the program Elizabete talks with host Rachel Strutt and ArtsUnion coordinator Meagan O’Brien about Brazilian cuisine and where she shops in Union Square. Other highlights include a beautiful song performed by David Ramos and Fernanco Saci (10 minute mark) and a dancing bull (18 minute mark). And trust us, this bull can dance!
Finally, if you’re unable to sample Brazilian cuisine this Saturday, consider visiting Union Square’s Brazilian markets some other time soon. Here is a guide to Union Square’s Casa de Carne and Pão de Açúcar:
Casa de Carnes Solução
38 Bow Street | 617.625.1787
Hours: Mon.-Thur: 8am-8pm; Fri. & Sat: 8am-9pm; Sun: 8am-7pm
Owner: Edson Nascimento
From: Goiana, Brazil
Open since: 1999
Most customers hail from: Brazil, Africa, Latin America & U.S.A.
What you’ll find: Great cuts of meat and everything you need for a Brazilian BBQ, including including top-quality sirloin, charcoal and seasoning
Don’t miss: Linguica and chicken sausage
Overview: At this Brazilian-style butcher, you’ll find not only meat, but Brazilian staples and sweets, such as Garoto chocolates and a Brazilian candy called Passoquinha, made of peanuts. Casa de Carnes also sells juices and juice concentrates of superfruits Açai and Acerola (also known as Barbados Cherry, a tropical fruit-bearing shrub or small tree, native to the West Indies and northern South America). Edson is investing in a specific fruit concentrate called Polpa de Pequi. Pequi is native fruit from the Brazilian Cerrado, a vast tropical savanna eco-region in central Brazil.
Pão de Açúcar & Brazilian Buffet
57 Union Square | 617.625.0022
Hours: Daily, 7am-10pm; Sunday: 8am-5pm
Owner: Francisco Silva
From: Minas Gerais
Open since: 2006
Most customers hail from: mostly Brazil yet Francisco makes point of saying all are welcome!
What you’ll find: Cured meats for feijoada, various forms of Açai (superfruit from Brazil’s rain forests), perfume and soccer shirts.
Don’t miss: pao de queijo (cheese bread) and coxinha (like chicken empanadas)
Overview: In addition to fresh pao de queso, the store also sells a frozen variety and a mix; these addictive cheese puffs use yucca flour rather than wheat flour. Shoppers will also find meat “kits” to make feijoada, a dish from Bahia, in eastern Brazil, which is the undisputed national dish of Brazil. It uses various pork products (sometimes beef products, too) and black beans. The market sells prepared feijoada at its buffet every Saturday; be sure to have some farofa (which has a consistency of farina cereal and is made from manioc/cassava flour) on the side. Also consider sampling Guarana, Brazil’s highly caffeinated and most popular soda.