One of these delicacies unique to Brazil is Pão de Queijo. The direct translation into English from Portuguese would be cheese bread. They are made of tapioca flour, eggs, milk and cheese, and when fresh out of the oven, it is lightly crispy on the outside, fluffy and chewy on the inside. They are absolutely irresistible!
It is hard to confirm the history of Pão de Queijo other than that it started in the State of Minas Gerrais, Brazil. This website says the slaves in the state of Minas Gerais back in the 1600’s started scraping the left over manioc (yucca root) after harvest, and baked them into little balls to eat. After about 200 years, the freed slaves began to experiment with adding milk and cheese to the recipe. After the 1950’s, Pão de Queijo because immensely popular in the whole of Brazil, making it almost a national snack food. Now, Pão de Queijo is not difficult to find at Portuguese and Brazilian bakeries in the United States as well.
The best way to enjoy Pão de Queijo outside of Brazil, would be to try to make your own. The ingredients are easily accessible and can be modified to your liking. This recipe from Mel's kitchen cafe is great, with room to play with different kinds of cheese to include. The strong flavor and aroma of Parmesan is a must, but I also like to add mozzarella for the soft, cheesy texture. I hope you enjoy making these surprisingly simple to make, amazingly delicious and gluten free Pão de Queijo soon!
If you would like to enjoy some more Brazilian snacks, you can head into Newark, NJ or Elizabeth, NJ to find streets filled with Portuguese writing, catering to the large Portuguese and Brazilian immigrant population that has called the area their home for the last few decades. One example is Betel Bakery on Ferry Street in Newark, NJ. Here is a yelp review for your consideration.
Picture by Mel's kitchen cafe