For those of us who can’t be at the Olympics to soak up the smell of inspiration, grit, and Brazilian street food, we can certainly eat like we’re there. We caught up with a Fooda favorite, Maria’s Brazilian Kitchen to hear what owner Daniela misses about Brazil and what she’d be eating if she were there.
Daniela Bettinazzi Kollar, a third-generation restaurant owner from São Paulo, Brazil, is the brains behind Maria’s Brazilian Kitchen (Maria is her mother’s name). We’re lucky to have her in Chicago bringing us the Brazilian backyard flavor of the churrasco chicken, street-food empanadas called coxinhas (slow-cooked mashed potatoes wrapped around pulled chicken breast and lightly breaded), kibes (Brazilian meatballs), and risoles (chicken and cheese croquettes). Their most popular items? Hands down, their bone-in chicken is a best seller, with rice and beans as a staple side. Also their coxinhas are big sellers.
Daniela owned and ran the Lincoln Park restaurant, Fogo to Go. After seven years, she saw an opportunity to grow the catering side of the business and jumped on it. This is when Maria’s Brazilian Kitchen was born.
Since Daniela is a pro on all things Brazilian food, we were eager to ask her some questions.
What do you miss most about living in Brazil?
Of course, there’s the weather, but Brazilians are celebrated for their free-spirited friendliness – embodied in everything they do, from the incomparable beaches, beautiful bodies, and savory food. We’re also unapologetically warm – if you meet someone just once, chances are pretty good you’ll be invited to their home for a weekend BBQ.
What Brazilian food do you miss that you can’t get in the US?
I miss the freshly squeezed sugarcane juice and the street food, especially pastels – rectangle-shaped thin crust pies stuffed with ham and cheese, or ground beef and olives. You’d find me devouring these at a cart-like stand on a busy street corner. I also miss their affordable steakhouses, and a nice cold Chopp – a Brazilian draft beer.
Is Brazilian food spicy?
This is the most common question we get about Brazilian food. Many folks unknowingly lump Brazilian food with its spicy Latin American cousins like Mexican or Puerto Rican food. Brazilian food, and similarly Argentinian food draws its influence from a mosaic of native and immigrant populations, namely Italian, Portuguese, African, and Amerindian, Indian, and German.
We want to feel like we’re in Rio while we binge-watch the Olympics, what can we make at home?
I love making moqueca, a simple salt water fish stew. In the spirit of Brazilian friendliness, here’s my family’s recipe:
Maria’s Brazilian Kitchen Moqueca
Ingredients (8-10 servings):
- 10 lbs boneless skinless cod
- 5 green peppers – sliced
- 5 red peppers – sliced
- 5 yellow peppers – sliced
- 3 large white onions – sliced
- 8 cups canned coconut milk
- Freshly chopped cilantro (to taste)
- Freshly minced garlic (to taste)
Slow boil the cod in a pot filled with water until cooked (140 internal temperature or until the fish flakes easily with a fork), then drain all liquid. In a separate pot, simmer the coconut milk with all other sliced vegetables until warm (3-5 minutes).
Add fish, fresh cut cilantro, and fresh garlic to taste. Serve warm.
If you want to go all out, no Brazilian plate is complete without slow-cooked black beans with bacon, garlic sautéed white rice, and a fresh salad. You can pair your Brazilian feast with a crisp white wine like a riesling, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio.
Enjoy your culinary trip to Brazil, and many thanks to Daniela for sharing her secret recipe! Have Maria’s Brazilian Kitchen cater some vibrant Brazilian fare for your next event, and say olá to them on Facebook!