With a name literally meaning 'beautiful horizon", one can hardly expect Belo Horizonte to be anything but spectacular. It's one of the largest cities on the continent and a centre of the metropolitan area populated by millions and millions of people. Dating its history to the 18th century, Belo Horizonte is surrounded by mountains and large green areas. A great metropolis in Brazil is a world in itself, which includes its cuisine and the food scene in general.
The taste and texture of these sweets is something between a chocolate truffle and a soft chocolate toffee.
It's not the healthiest idea to start exploring the food scene of Belo Horizonte with sweets, but let's face it - there's nothing more Brazilian than Brazilian brigadeiros. Allegedly invented by a confectioner from Rio de Janeiro to promote the presidential candidacy of Eduardo Gomes, this little treat has outlived its initial purpose and became a trademark of cafes and restaurants across the country. A brigadeiro is easily recognizable being shaped into small balls covered in chocolate sprinkles and placed in a small cupcake liner.
In Belo Horizonte, try Boca do Forno for an authentic brigadeiro experience.
Let's maintain the jumping temp of our list and go from sweets to fish. Brazilians know how to prepare their fish, and one of the more popular dishes in Belo Horizonte is daurade. They put it in a stew, they grill and even roast it, they make sandwiches with it. Naturally, different restaurants offer their own takes on meals featuring daurade, and it's a quest in itself to discover the most unique recipe and its execution. What's curious is that the fashion for daurade most likely came from Japan, where it's the most popular kind of fish to catch. Japanese influences are very strong in Brazil, since there are a lot of Brazilians with Japanese ancestry.
If you want great fish, including daurade, you can't miss with Xanadu Delícias do Mar.
Ceviche is fresh fish or other seafood marinated in citrus juice with various additional ingredients. The dish originated in Peru, however, there are different variations of ceviche all over the world. Its name means "food" in Spanish or "dish" in Quechuan.
Before we jump further away, we should really pay attention to more fish. Brazilians love their seafood and make it almost as one makes art. For example, there is a seafood dish that originated in Peru, typically made from fresh raw fish cured in fresh citrus juices, most commonly lemon or lime. It is called ceviche and has only grown in popularity since it was first introduced around 1820. Some say it's pre-Hispanic, others attribute its origin to different countries in South America, but everyone enjoys it.
For decent ceviche, check out Inka.
Churros is sweet roasted pastry from a custard dough, which has a cross-sectional shape of a multi-pointed star or simply round in cross section. The homeland of churros is Spain, where churros are traditionally served for breakfast. There are churros with filling and chocolate glaze. Spaniards dip churros in a cup of hot chocolate or serve it with coffee and milk.
Now, this is something that definitely came from Spain. Or maybe Portugal, as the origins of food are as mirky as the path before us while exploring churros. Some even say that churros came from China to Europe and then spread to Brazil and other countries. They certainly look exotic enough. Churros are fried until they become crunchy, and may get sprinkled with sugar. The surface of a churro is ridged due to having been piped from a churrera, a syringe-like tool with a star-shaped nozzle.
Churros are very common, Restaurante Paladino is a safe bet when checking them out.
A popular pasta dish of Italian origin, consisting of penne in tomato sauce with beef (less often pork), mushrooms and carrots (along with other vegetables, the set of which depends on family traditions) and sprinkled with grated queso bola cheese. The origin of the name of the dish is unknown, according to one theory, it came from the Italian arrosto (fry), since fried pork was used in similar dishes in Italy.
Next, we should move to something completely different. In Brazil, there is rosto, a dish of Italian origin consisting of penne in a tomato sauce with beef or occasionally pork, mushrooms and carrots, among other vegetables. The most important part of the recipe is topping rosto with grated "queso bola". The origin of the name "rosto" is probably from the English word "roast", but nothing certain is currently known. Which adds a layer to the exotic mystery of the dish, and that's exactly what we want to familiarize ourselves with local cuisine.
Since rosto is a type of paste, it's easily found at Taberna Livorno and similar places.
It's a soured milk casserole, a classic dish of Albania and Kosovo cuisine. It consists of lamb, rice, garlic and oregano cooked with yogurt and eggs. The dish is light and delicious!
Now, this one is rather surprising. Who would have thought that a traditional Albanian dish would be so popular in one of the largest Brazilian cities? Yet there it is, sound in hundreds of restaurants. Tavë kosi is made from lamb and rice baked with a mixture of yoghurt and eggs added to wheat flour and butter. Actually, the original recipe requires sour milk, but you will rarely find a true classic in Brazil. Still, it's an interesting phenomenon and a rather tasty dish that's worth exploring.
You can start the exploration with Restaurante Do Porto.
Bastilla is a traditional Moroccan dish often served on festive occasions. It is a savory-sweet meat pie made with chicken meat, onions, dried fruits, eggs and spices. These ingredients are wrapped in several sheets of filo dough and then are dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Looks like Brazil has adapted the best foods from all around the globe. Bastilla, for example, is a North African meat or seafood pie that somehow found its way into many restaurants around Belo Horizonte. This is most likely due to the immigrants from places like Israel and European countries with Maghreb influences. There are many bastilla variations with different fillings - poultry bastilla is dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon, seafood bastilla is usually dressed with a light sprinkle of shredded cheese and a few slices of lemon.
Pastelaria Marília de Dirceu is a respectable restaurant with great bastilla among other dishes.
In Brazil, churrasco is called meat dishes prepared on the grill. Brazilian churrasco contains a variety of meat products and offal prepared on a regular barbecue grill.
Let's keep jumping and this time land in churrascaria. This is the name for a steakhouse in Brazil and its neighbouring countries where you can always find some spicy churrasco, a variety of barbecue meat, pork, sausage and chicken, sometimes even mixed together in an unforgettable eclectic offering. Many Brazilian "churrasqueiras" do not have grills, only the skewers above the embers. The dish is practically the most popular kind of meat in Brazil, and in Belo Horizonte, there are over a thousand places to try.
Decent churrasco can always be found at Cantina da Nâna.
A rice stew with chicken, a typical Brazilian dish in Minas Gerais.
The farthest thing from grilled meat would be chicken soup, so that is where we land next. The traditional galinhada is just that - a chicken stew with a local twist. Unlike many items on our list, it is completely local. Combined with rice and peppered with spices and prepared in accordance with the personal preferences of a chef, galinhada is as common as bread despite being rather exotic to the unprepared eye. Of course, simplicity is only visual, as the taste is rather elaborate.
Amarelim Do Prado serves some of the best galinhada in the city.
The main Brazilian dish is everyday and festive food at the same time, it simultaneously indicates a strict code and endless freedom. It comes with fried pork with beans and rice, and around - a legion of possible plots.
Not to jump too high in the end, we shall finish with another stew, albeit a completely different one. Feijoada is made from beans and fresh pork or beef, and unlike chicken stews, it's best prepared over low heat in a thick clay pot. Naturally, finding such a classic way of making the stew is rare, but in Belo Horizonte, there's always a lot of options for someone trying to experience an authentic Brazilian meal. Indeed, a national dish of Brazil, which feijoada actually is, cannot be skipped.
The aptly named Feijoaria is a good place to check for some feijoada.
As you can see, Belo Horizonte is as diverse as it is beautiful, and a wandering traveller can find almost any kind of food. We hope that you will too.