Brazil, South America's largest, most populous country, has a diverse population that includes indigenous peoples, Portuguese, Spaniards, Africans, Italians, Germans, Lebanese and Japanese. The result is a variety of cooking styles that can be divided into four distinct culinary regions:
Northern: In the north or the Amazon, traditional dishes use fish, yams, nuts and tropical fruits. Vatapá, a soup of seafood, coconut milk and nuts, is a signature dish in northeastern coastal areas. The northeast is also home to sugar, a key ingredient in the Caipirinha, a trendy Brazilian cocktail that features cachaça, a brandy made from sugar cane.
Western: In the central west and the Pantanal wetlands, local cooks rely on an ample supply of fish and game.
Southeastern: Brazil's industrial heart lies in the southeast, where plentiful beans, pork and corn are produced. The southeast is also home to Brazil's de facto national dish, the classic comfort food Feijoada.
Southern: Internationally, Brazil is perhaps best known for churrasco, the southern region's cowboy or gaucho cuisine. Churrascarias (steak houses) are a meat lover's paradise and a cornerstone of local culture.