Book review: Brazilian Food, Thiago Castanho

As host of this summer's world cup and next year's Olympic Games, it's no surprise to see Brazil's chefs cashing in on the world's attention - so I was intrigued to see whether there was any substance behind Thiago Castanho's latest offering, "Brazilian Food".

The book is certainly beautiful, capturing the essence of Brazilian culture with its evocative photography of vibrant street food, churrascaria barbecue restaurants and amazing seafood from the rivers and Atlantic ocean.

It's also an education. As somebody with a borderline food obsession, it's rare to come across such an unexplored cuisine - my previous experience being limited to the odd caipirinha... The book is filled with dishes I've never cooked before (fish skin crackling anyone?) and ingredients I've never even heard of (jaboticaba?).

With two restaurants, including one of "Latin America's 50 best", 26 year old Thiago Castanho grew up in the Amazonian region of Brazil. This means he, and the other contributing chefs, have access to the world's most abundant larder - which is certainly more exotic than my local Sainsburys or Waitrose. Combine these unusual ingredients with a food heritage that takes from Portugese, African, Italian and Japanese cooking and the results are spectacular. Ultimately though, even a keen cook will struggle to source everything needed for these recipes - however, they will be rewarded with an insight into a truly unique cuisine.



Torresmo de peixe com molho de acai 

Fish crackling with acai

Serves 4

Fish crackling

  • 500g fish skin, from small lean fish
  • 150g coarse rock salt
  • vegetable oil for deep frying
  • sea salt flakes

Acai juice

  • 100g acai pulp
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • salt, to taste
  1. Clean the fish skin removing the scales, Prepare a brining solution with the rock salt and 500ml of water in a bowl. Soak the fish skins in this liquid for 20 minutes.
  2. To make the juice, mix the acai, lime juice and sugar together with a pinch of salt.
  3. Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan. remove the fish skins from the brine and scald them briefly in the boiling water. Drain and cool.
  4. Using a sharp knife, remove any remaining flesh from the skins. Cut the skins into 10cm squares.
  5. In a deep-fat fryer or heavy-based saucepan, preheat the oil to 180C. Use the kitchen paper to thoroughly pat dry the squares of fish skin. Working in batches, deep-fry the squares until they crackle.
  6. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with sea salt befoe serving with the acai juice.

Recipe taken from "Brazilian Food", Thiago Castanho, Mitchel Beazley, 2014