A very common side dish in Brazilian cuisine, farofa has a crispy, nutty flavor terrific along side rice and beans, grilled meat, chicken and fish.
By Suzie Castello
Farofa is a very common side dish in Brazilian cuisine. It has a deliciously nutty flavor and a light crispiness partners up great with rice and beans and grilled meats, such as a picanha.
My mom tried farofa on her first visit to Brazil. My mother-in-law had prepared a huge table of comida mineira, sort of a full-court-press of Brazilian soul food including rice, beans, couve (Brazilian collard greens), okra, fried manioc, and of course farofa. My mom happily tried a little of everything. When my mother-in-law asked her how she liked the food and my mom smiled back and nodded, with her mouth full and not being able to speak portuguese. I thought all was well. Later, she confessed, “I didn’t like the sand”. “What sand?” I asked. “The stuff she served, the sandy stuff.” “Oh, the farofa.” She had eaten it by the forkful, like it was mashed potatoes. “Oh Mom, of not, you’re not supposed to eat it straight. You’re supposed to mix it into your rice and beans!”
How was she to know, poor thing? She has since learned to love farofa. But it was this experience that made me realize what happens a lot in Brazilian cuisine. The alchemy of the dish doesn’t only occur in the cooking process in the kitchen, it also happens on the plate as different flavors and textures meet each other. A whole new magic happens in the meeting of juice and crunch.
I recommend making farofa to take a ride alongside your next steak to see how it soaks up the meat juices. Rice and beans seem boring to me without it. If you want to go all out, light up the grill and make a picanha at your next barbecue. But don’t forget the farofa.
Suzie Castello is an American writer living and raising a family in a small town in the mountains just outside Rio de Janeiro. She writes about finding ways to cook, with the regional ingredients, dishes that tell her life story, from childhood in the States to travels abroad, and anything new discovered along the way. She is also the Editor of Da Minha Cozinha, a Portuguese-language blog about honest home-cooking.