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SouperChef Anna Travels | Taste Brazil

by Souperchef Anna on

Download our e-magazine here to have an exclusive read on our farm-to-table journey, the street food and markets, specially curated recipes and our conversations with inspiring chefs and the hospitable Brazilians!

Ingredients

Brazil boasts of an impressive, syncretic host of ingredients and cuisines. Flavours are heavily influenced by regions and seasons, and like much of the world, these flavours have evolved much over the past decade and her culinary variety can make even the most jaded of travellers perk up in anticipation.

As a food establishment, we are particularly fascinated by the ingredients each country has to offer and actively seek them out in our travels. Brazil certainly serves up an avalanche of nature’s blessings to support her gastronomy! Come follow us in our ingredients’ trail here. Trust us, Brazil is much more than her famed meat!

 

Mercado de São José

Mercado de São José

 

Mercado de São José, a public market in Recife, is the oldest Brazilian building constructed of pre- manufactured iron, presumably inspired by old French gates. A well-known historic heritage site, stepping into the facade of the market is quite an experience in itself. We were told that because of the fame this market enjoys from tourists and locals alike, petty crime is common here, and I was advised gently by a kindly vendor to remove the necklace I was wearing and guard it well in my bag. Beyond this initial mild trepidation, shopping in the market and the surrounding streets was thoroughly enjoyable, especially if you’d like to see the produce that the locals cook with at home.

Our hosts mused that markets are catching on the health fads and superfoods like quinoa and assorted nuts and seeds are increasingly common. Even as a heritage site, Mercado de São José has seen countless iterations to adapt to the changing needs of the consumers.

 

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Caju or more commonly known to us as cashew apple!

 

Our best find on our ingredients trail? This beautiful caju or cashew apple! While non-Brazilians will be familiar with the cashew nut and its incarnations as nut butter and nut milk, it is primarily in Brazil where the cashew apple shines. The juice (suco de caju) is moderately sweet and smooth, with a little tannic aftertaste, possibly the best drink we have ever had in my life! Cashew apple juice is high in Vitamin C and other micro-nutrients, but as the skin of the cashew apple is paper-thin, the fruit is not suitable for export or even for transportation to non-cashew growing regions within Brazil. We are still dreaming about the juice, no kidding!

While Brazilian cuisine varies from region to region, grilled meats are a staple of Brazilian gastronomy, so meat-lovers are certainly going to be pleased at the selections in the markets. Sadia supplies much of the meat to stalls big and small, both fresh and processed, a testament to its significant contribution to the food culture in the whole of Brazil. Fresh and good quality meat like this makes all the difference to a grand meal. All you need then is a generous dredging of coarse salt and a roaring open fire to serve up a most satisfying meal. We weren’t too hot about the offals on sale in the markets, but these make easy fillers in soups or as complements to the mains in grills, and remain popular amongst the locals.

 

Vaccination point within the market.

Vaccination point within the market.

 

Given the frequent use of the neighbourhood markets by the locals, the health authorities use these spots strategically to reach out to the citizens. Free flu vaccinations were offered over the weekend for elderly at a non-descript neighbourhood market we visited! We also love how the lemons were hung along chains over us, instead of in the usual piles in baskets or crates. You can almost pretend you were plucking them fresh off lemon trees, soaking in the lemon scent!

 

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Other tropical fruits are aplenty and fresh juices are staples in all parts of Brazil. Mangos, oranges, watermelons, bananas, pineapples, passionfruits and papayas are wildly popular and readily available, while Amazonian fruits of the north like açaí are found mainly in the growing regions.

Many of these fruit stalls remind us of the wet markets back home in Singapore, even the friendly banter between the shoppers and the vendors. That home-away-from-home feeling found us every now and then, and we couldn’t help but be thankful – that food, even in its simplest, rawest, unadulterated form, connects.

 

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Bequinho!

Bequinho!

 

Condiments and spices form another stronghold in all markets, not at all surprising given the significance Brazilians place on their dining experiences. These biquinho (pronouced as bee- KEE-nyo) caught our eye! They are affectionately known as little beak peppers and these teardrop-shaped gems are milder than what their bright hues suggest. Like capsicum and other members of this species, beak peppers aren’t spicy and have a distinctive mildly smoky profile. Used in marinades and sauces, they can taste even sweetish and fruity. Their good looks also mean they make easy and pretty garnishes for salads and barbecues. Quite the versatile ingredient, won’t you agree?

 

Condiments

Condiments


Dried herbs and scents for baths and incenses.

Dried herbs and scents for baths and incenses.

 

The dried food segments of the markets are comparably smaller, and we learned that much of these dried items aren’t even used for food. Rather, they are important ingredients for making scents and incenses, while some spices and herbs are used for bathing. In the markets, particularly the bigger ones like Mercado de São José, we spotted many shops set up by immigrant Chinese, mainly for whole- sale distributorship. Shoes, toys, clothes, bags and various household items go for cheap here, and have become hot spots for merchants across the nation. Even if you aren’t going for bulk purchases, these are good stops to make for fuss-free shopping and replenishment of travel supplies.

 

One of the many friendly vendors we met in the markets!

One of the many friendly vendors we met in the markets!

 

We are fortunate to have hosts arranged for us throughout our travel in Brazil, so communication was never an issue. But even if you are travelling on your own, food is really a common language that everyone speaks. Vendors are eager to share and introduce the produce and in most markets, particularly the ones in Recife, there are explanatory signages in Portuguese and English. As tourists, this is a very welcoming gesture! With its renowned fame as the Venice of Brazil and the Amsterdam of South America, Recife stands out as a major tourist attraction in the north-east region of Brazil, mainly for its beaches and for its historic sites. It is in Recife that you can immerse in Brazil’s colourful past that has developed its unique identity today as one of the most racially mixed societies. Do visit Olinda, a city in Pernambuco that is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

Signages in Portuguese and English in Olinda.

Signages in Portuguese and English in Olinda.

 

Once you are done with the markets, head on to the eateries that trim the surrounding streets and taste for yourself the magic the locals make with these food ingredients. At Bragantino Bar E Restaurante at Crossroads Market, we made a quick pitstop to rest and refuel, and more surprises awaited.

 

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Bragantino has been serving traditional local food with Portu- guese roots for the past 50 years. We thoroughly enjoyed the caldinho, a typical soup made from black beans in Pernambuco, the north-east region of Brazil. Unlike its more well-known black bean counterpart, the feijoada, caldinho is made with puréed black beans for a thicker and more consistent texture. This is typically eaten at the beach, and on colder wintry days, beach-goers flank vendors for this hot soup.

 

Caldinho at O Bragantino

Caldinho at O Bragantino

 

Like many of the other Brazilian snack food and cuisines, condiments are what make the flavours pop. You can add poached eggs, olives, jerked beef, chives, coriander and many others, though caldinho is equally delicious with just a splash of fresh lime juice.

Modest ingredients can make grand meals. With a little creativity and flexibility, you can take care of even the pickiest of eaters. Let not the glossy, fancy restaurants or culinary trends take your eye away from the basics. Because often, it’s the basics that deliver and serve up comfort.

Having spent a good amount of time understanding how the chickens are reared and cared for at the BRF plant and chicken farm, we were particularly attentive to each chicken dish we had the honour of eating!

 

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The grilled chicken we had at Tio Pepe was spectacular, easily one of the best meals we’ve had! Done Portuguese style with vegetable rice on the side, this was grilled upon order, over a hot grill fire to produce that crispy skin with rustically perfect grill marks and tender inside.

 

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This galinha caipira (meaning rustic country-style chicken) also hit home – it reminded us so much of a thick Indonesian soto ayam! Turmeric is used to enhance the flavour of the dish, thickened with manioc (cassava/tapioca). Unlike the Indian way of cooking we are used to where turmeric is combined with other spices, turmeric is regarded as saffron from the earth and is used as a standalone spice here. The dish is so popular that apparently every family has their unique version, hence the name ‘rustic country chicken’.

And we are reminded once again – the best poultry produces the best results, and the best chef can only be when passion and love for the food and people is part of the recipe.

Farm To Table

As we warm our hands and nourish our bodies with a hot meal, it’s easy to focus on what’s on the table and forget what goes behind the scenes. This trip to Brazil is precisely dedicated to the significance of our unsung heroes – the farmers and producers, the food researchers, the company responsible for feeding Brazilians across the nation.

 

BRF in Concordia

BRF in Concordia.

 

For many years, The Soup Spoon has been a proud partner of SATS-BRF, a distributor of Sadia in Singapore. SATS-BRF is a joint venture between SATS and BRF, Sadia’s parent company. BRF is one of the 10th largest food manufacturers in the world. With over 40 factories worldwide and a global workforce of 120,000 personnel, BRF is an exemplary model of the scalability of sustainable food, done right with commitment, responsibility and love for her people and our environment.

Join us as we demystify the journey our food takes to reach our plates. From farm to table, may we gain a deeper appreciation for the collective work that goes behind and the food we have come to love and enjoy.

Meet senhor Adelar, a 52-year-old chicken farmer with BRF.

 

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Senhor Adelar with his wife, Neusa.

 

One of the 640 farmers here at Concordia which produces most of the chickens for Sadia Singapore, senhor Adelar is a second generation chicken farmer of Italian descent. For 28 years, he has devoted his life to the farm, with many awards from the company to boot. The years showed. He smiled and the lines around his eyes furrowed. His finger nails were caked with dirt, like every other farmer who has been hard at work tending to things they love. In his hands, he held the chicks tenderly. We couldn’t have found a sweeter and more experienced person to show us around the farm!

 

10-day-old chicks in tender care.

10-day-old chicks in tender care.

 

At the time of our visit, the chicks were vulnerable at 10 days old, so bulk of his work centred around keeping the chicks warm by burning wood fire to stabilise the temperature. If the temperature fluctuates too much in the aviary, the chicks are likely to catch a cold, and like a loving father, he does all he can to ensure the chicks stay toasty and healthy. “As long as I can, I will continue doing this,” he said gently, then broke into a smile.

 

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We were shown around the farm and senhor Adelar’s bounty of orange and other fruit trees. Co-workers walked on by, gave him friendly pats on the back, and it’s really not hard to see how well respected this man is on the farm. Harvests of oranges were passed around, and we heard about how it is a common practice on the farm to share – home farm harvests, home bakes etc. When they have it, they share it.

 

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Like many of the BRF’s employees, senhor Adelar’s wife works with him in the company too, and even his son has come on board as a veterinarian for BRF. We were invited into his home to share a chimaro, a yerba mate drink (herbal tea popular in South America) and some cakes his lovely wife, Neusa, had baked. There is a saying that unless all the water in the hot flask is gone, no one goes home.

Such is the beautiful hospitality of the people.

Concordia is where BRF started 80 years ago, and today, it is widely recognised as the best city to live in Brazil. An estimate of 50% of Concordia population works directly or indirectly for BRF, with some 6000 people hired by BRF on her farms, factories, consultancy, research and development etc.

While it is the large scale of the company that entices many job-hunters, it is the warmth that keeps them this big, and growing. How heartening it is to know that a company of such success can stay this humble and compassionate, taking great care of her people, the families and the animals. We are souper proud to be your partner in this farm-to-table journey.

 

A rare peek at the state-of-the-art factory facilities of BRF.

A rare peek at the state-of-the-art factory facilities of BRF.

 

Street Foods

PASTEL SENAGA AT NEIGHBOURHOOD MARKET FAIR (FEIRA), ALAMEDA LORENA (SAO PAULO)

PASTEL SENAGA AT NEIGHBOURHOOD MARKET FAIR (FEIRA), ALAMEDA LORENA (SAO PAULO)

 

Feiras, meaning street markets or market fairs, dot the São Paulo city weekly from early morning till about 2pm on predetermined streets with old-fashioned snacks, casual cheap eats, and colourful personalities. Despite the sprawl of modernisation throughout Brazil, street markets have held their own, almost defiantly keeping firm to what has made Brazil, Brazil. There is something uniquely upbeat about walking down the streets here. You can eat your way down the street, back up, and you will still want to saunter down again, if not for more snacks, then for the carnivalesque atmosphere the street markets proudly exude. Let’s dig in.

 

Pasteis

Pasteis

 

These pasteis (pronounced as pah-stays) were sold at one of the 900 feiras in São Paulo. In Brazil, pastel (singular of pasteis) is a typical fast food dish and serves as an anytime treat at the beach or on the streets, as a mid-meal snack or even as a simple and quick lunch.

To make pasteis, thin pastry envelopes are wrapped around assorted fillings, then deep-fried in vegetable oil to produce an enticingly crispy and golden-brown pastry. The most common fillings are ground meat (usually beef), mozzarella, heart of palm, Catupiry cream cheese, chicken and small shrimps. Best served with garapa, a sugarcane juice that is divine with lemon and loads of ice.

 

Coxinhas (bottom of pic)

Coxinhas (bottom of pic)

 

Coxinha is the other famous street snack food, essentially shredded chicken and Catupiry cream cheese croquettes covered in dough and is traditionally made to shape like a chicken thigh. They remind me though of a cross between our local samosa and a plump curry puff!

Singapore and Brazil share a fondness for coconut-based dishes, and we fell in love with doce de coco, a coconut snack we tried at Mercado de São José in Recife. These are coconut pieces coated with caramelised sugar and fried to a satisfying crunch. It has to be one of our favourite street foods here!

 

Vendor Lucimero at his coconut snack stall.

Vendor Lucimero at his coconut snack stall.

 

At the same street stall tended by this young chap Lucimero (more on him later), you will find this quebra queixo, also known as the ‘jawbreaker’. From a distance, we thought it was pancake, but as he saw through the sheets, we realised it was a coconut-based hard candy, tasting very much like toffee!

 

Churros

Churros

 

At the beach, it always felt right to have a churro in hand. Everyone was doing so! Fried dough pastry, covered with sugar and cinnamon with an indulgent dip. We’ve never really liked churros, but this was crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. Looking back, it occurred to us that our hands were never really free – we were always holding one snack food or another. And honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Sopa Stall

Sopa Stall

 

Like coconut, corn is commonplace in Brazilian street food scene. Just a few stalls down from Lucimero’s was a nondescript stall selling cold corn soup (sopa is Portuguese for soup). Sweetish to taste, this is very much like corn chowder but refreshingly cold, to be topped with cinnamon powder or almost any desired toppings. We heard that corn and coconut chowder is a popular Brazilian home dish, and it certainly resonated with our local palate!

At Mercado in Recife, our hosts gaily brought us to sample yet another popular soup-based snack – sopa de feijão. I love how versatile this soup is! Commonly cooked with potatoes, cumin and salt, locals enjoy it with offals too with various toppings.

 

Sweet Corn Soup

Sweet Corn Soup

 

Soup is amazing that way. There is something so healing and inclusive about soup that connects all. Every culture, every country has a soup. Every soup has something for everyone. Here in Brazil, soup connects us all.

Açaí, the well-touted superfood with antioxidant and anti- inflammatory properties, has recently gained traction in Singapore. This Amazonian berry tastes divine in all its forms, and açaí juices are readily available in kiosks along the streets. In its thicker smoothie rendition topped with granola, the results are sublime and make for a very satisfying and wholesome snack! I can have this every day!

 

Acai with granola bowl.

Acai with granola bowl.

 

If you are still hungry after the açaí smoothie, go for the Pão de queijo. This is a Brazilian bread made with tapioca flour, light and fluffy and gluten-free with gooey cheese, very much like the mochi puffs we find in Singapore. Try stopping yourself from popping a few!

Tapioca is used plentifully and creatively in Brazil. Other than Pão de queijo, you can find many tapioca stands selling pastries, crepes, sweets and treats. We knew tapioca was a versatile ingredient, but Brazil’s varieties astound us. This tasty tapioca pancake snack was such a delight we decided to buy back the flour!

 

Pão de queijo

Pão de queijo


Globo brand tapioca snacks

Globo brand tapioca snacks

 

Along the beaches, we were intrigued by many vendors peddling these packets of snacks. Throes of beach-goers, especially children, would gather around the vendors, and before long, you can see the vendors smiling, with just a couple of yellow packs left in that big bag. We had to try them, even though we were all pretty stuffed by then. Made from raw tapioca, this is a snack every child growing up in Rio would have had, particu- larly by the beach. Long on charm, these snacks are still wildly popular amongst the adults, enjoying an almost-cult status of being the heritage snack in Brazil, very much like the icing gem biscuits we love in Singapore. The yellow packs contain the sweetish variety, while we prefer the savoury version in the white packs.

Fun fact: Brazilian convenience stores carry these snacks too, but in plastic sealed packaging, while those sold at the beach are unsealed in a paper pack. Not that it matters to any fan of these biscuits, we suppose!

 

The Chef’s Story: Chef Rodrigo Oliveria

Sobremesa – “An elusive feeling of relaxation and pleasure after sharing a meal with friends, family or a potential love interest, when words flow, laughter reigns, and memories are made.”

 

Mocotó

Mocotó

 

Tell me, how do you act around a chef whom you are meeting for the first time, but whose wise words and rise-to-fame story you have memorised like the alphabet because you are such a great fan of his? Flailing with excitement, we literally skipped into Mocotó, a casual restaurant in the north of São Paulo, a 50-min car ride from where we were. Out came Chef Rodrigo Oliveira, towering above everybody else with his lanky frame. One of the most celebrated young chefs in Brazil, his accolades can be intimidating to any fledgling restaurateur or chef. But for all the success he has today, you will find no airs, just humility and passion.

 

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CARNE-DE-SOL ASSADA (SALT CURED BEEF)

 

At Mocotó, ingredients are pared down to the basics, but blended with the intense flavours of Brazilian cooking and contemporary concepts. Tradition in evolution is innovation, and his deft updating of time-honoured recipes has proven to be a roaring hit. We particularly love his traditional lamb stew, the Atolado de bode, a style from north-east Brazil where his father was from. The greatness in his food lies in his ability to stay true to his roots, yet bringing a masterful balance of surprise and tradition that draws food-lovers to the lesser known cuisine of the north-east.

 

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I showed him the ingredients I brought over from Singapore – bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), petai, tempeh and my signature ginger scallion and chilli sauces. As his team gathered to test these ingredients, we also learned about local Amazonian products and their regional influences. Over dishes and pots of Mocotó’s offerings, we spent a languid afternoon centred around food. We are inspired by his use of cassava in the dishes, and can’t wait to try it back in Singapore!

 

BAIO-DE-DOIS (DISH OF TWO)

BAIO-DE-DOIS (DISH OF TWO)

 

Imagine my delight when I realised we share the same love for ‘one-pot’ food! And he emphasised the beauty of eating as a social act that helps to cement a connection of shared moments spent around the table. Indeed, there is so much more joy in digging into big pots and ladling the goodness on plates around the table, than to work on an elaborate individual dish placed in front of you that isn’t designed for sharing. Nothing against fine dining, but simplicity is luxurious, as I have come to realise from his words.

When Chef Rodrigo speaks, you can’t help but be inspired and feel all fuzzed up inside. He’s a firm believer that food is a common language that connects people and creates an inclusive environment that sets prejudice aside. This is a chef who does away with mise en place. “Too much work,” he said. No pretentious, fancy cook- ing, just food that evokes memories and connects people.

On the ride back from Mocotó, my heart was stirred by my exchange with Chef Rodrigo. I think about how recipes are gradually altered over time to accommodate new trends, changing practices, seasonal ingredients, new technology and even emerging cooking utensils of the modern world. But why we cook shouldn’t change.

We cook to preserve time and traditions. We cook to preserve a link with where we came from, and our sense of identity. We cook because food is the language everyone speaks. When food is cooked with love and passion, people are happy eating it. That same food served again in future is likely to draw up that same feeling of joy, and that’s why we cook. For others. For that connection that goes beyond boundaries.

 

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Today, share a meal with someone. Share memories at the table. Share your thoughts far beyond the taste on your plate. Let your love for others be the ingredient that makes up the meal of their lifetime. Thank you Chef Rodrigo for this reminder.

 

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CHEF RODRIGO OLIVEIRA

“COMFORT FOOD IS SUBJECTIVE. IT’S ABOUT SMELLS, SIGHTS AND TASTES. RECIPES THAT HIT THE SOFT, WARM, FUZZY SPOT, EVOKING MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD, TRAVELS, EMOTIONS. THIS WARM FUZZY FEELING CREATES A WELL-STOCKED LARDER OF POSITIVE EMOTIONS.”

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“FOOD FORMS A NARRATIVE OF OUR LIVES. WE ARE NOT SO MUCH WHAT WE EAT, BUT WHAT WE REMEMBER WE HAVE EATEN.”

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“COOK WITH PASSION. FOOD WILL TASTE BETTER.”

 

Taste Brazil, The World In One Kitchen
Taste Brazil, From Farm To Table

Download our e-magazine here to have an exclusive read on our farm-to-table journey, the street food and markets, specially curated recipes and our conversations with inspiring chefs and the hospitable Brazilians!

 

Taste Brazil, From Farm To Table

The

Brazil’s rhythms and colours.

 

From the captivating colours of Brazil’s landscapes to the sizzling hot meals she serves up, Brazil’s attractions are as charmingly diverse as the people she is made up of. It’s hard not to fall for Brazil, but much more than her vibrant culture and people, this trip to the metropolis led us to a heart-stirring epiphany about food.

 

10-day-old chicks at Sadia's chicken farm, in the tender care of its farmers.

10-day-old chicks at BRF’s chicken farm, in the tender care of its farmers.

 

Thanks to the good folks from BRF and SATS-BRF (distributor of Sadia in Singapore), we spent a fulfilling two weeks in Brazil, a land of traditional charm and culinary creativity. We knew well before the trip that our chicken, with which we make soups and grilled dishes, are of the most premium quality in the industry. But little did we realise just how much love, tender care and professional undertakings have gone into each and every animal at the farm and plant, before they are cooked with passion to become the dishes we enjoy.

 

Señor Adelar, a chicken farmer with BRF for 28 years.

Senhor Adelar, a chicken farmer with BRF for 28 years.

 

As we warm our hands and nourish our bodies with a hot meal, it’s easy to focus on what’s on the table and forget what goes behind the scenes. This trip to Brazil is precisely dedicated to our unsung heroes – the farmers and producers, the food researchers, the company responsible for feeding Brazilians across the nation. We gathered stories, from the people, from the food, and returned with very grateful hearts.

 

Brazil Street Food

The buzz of feiras (street markets) in Brazil!

 

Coconut snacks on the streets!

Coconut snacks on the streets!

 

We learnt too, from our conversations with celebrated Brazilian chef, Rodrigo Oliveira, as well as our BRF hosts, that food goes far beyond the tastes on the plates. It transcends boundaries to connect people across lands, across time, across cultures. It connects us to our traditions and brings us back to emotions our memories have kept as happy and precious. We are reminded of the significance of food, and how blessed we are to be in this industry where we can help to create memories and connections for people!

 

Celebrated Brazilian chef, Rodrigo Oliveira and our SouperChef Anna.

Celebrated Brazilian chef, Rodrigo Oliveira and our SouperChef Anna.

 

This has been such a reflective and memorable trip and we have compiled an e-magazine (link at top of post) of our highlights in Brazil, just for you! Enjoy our photo journal of stories and inspirations as we hopped from market to market, sampled the street snacks and chefs’ interpretations of traditions, and formed connections with the people we met. Join us in our culinary discovery of Brazil and give thanks to the many who have made eating and cooking possible and enjoyable!

Together with Sadia Singapore and SATS-BRF, we proudly present The World In One Kitchen, from Brazil to our kitchen to you.

 

* This Souper Inspirations trip to Brazil is sponsored by our kind partners, Sadia Singapore, BRF and SATS-BRF (distributor of Sadia in Singapore). All opinions and photos are as always, ours.

 

Read more on SouperChef Anna’s travel to Brazil on our e-magazine. Download Here.