Heading To The Heart of The Amazon: Belem, Brazil

Not even two weeks ago I was Insta-capturing my adventure in Brazil with TAM airlines but now it seems eons away. I headed to Brazil for the first time to check out a corner of the country – Belém -- that’s pretty unknown even to my Brazilian friends. Belém is less Gisele, samba, and bossa nova and more its own rustic, rugged, and rad.

As the biggest city in the Amazon region, every Amazonian ingredient– from açaí to brazil nuts to tonka beans – comes through Belém. The trip was like a Brazilian version of Motorcycle Diaries taking water taxis to and fro, crossing rickety bridges, and riding water buffalo, well, just to ride a water buffalo.

We started our trip off heading to Ver-O-Peso, an awesome open-air market (more on that later), and there was a new-to-me ingredient every two feet. But one that was very familiar was açaí – so familiar to locals too that, when you ask them to define the food, they all chat up açaí. On our first day Gaby, Matt, and I headed to one of the thousands of islands in the region and had one of my favorite meals of the trip at Saudosa Maloca — we're talking fresh-caught Amazonian fish, just-picked coconuts, local beers, and açaí for dessert.

We foraged ingredients for lunch like banana leaves, coconuts, and açaí. I always knew açaí was pricey but never knew why until I realized it’s kinda impossible to harvest. The guy pictured here had skills and free climbed a palm barefoot to pick us fresh açaí (yes, that's a makeshift harness in his right hand). What I didn't know is that açaí grows like that or that you had to climb 40 feet in the air to harvest it or that each açaí berry only has a teeny layer of edible skin so literally it takes buckets of berries to make enough for an açaí bowl.

My newfound appreciation means açaí bowls are happening on the regular and this one is an ode to that first day of our trip, packed with all sorts of ingredients from our foraging session like cacao, mango, coconut, and açaí (duh). So, no, there is no Amazonian river canoeing as part of my everyday life but with this recipe I've got a little taste of Belém in my breakfast bowl.

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Photos of Aida, man holding acai branch, and coconuts by Matt Armendariz. 
Photo of canoe on water by Gabriel Tichy.

My trip to Brazil and this post was sponsored by LAN AirlinesAll content, ideas, and words are my own. Thanks for supporting these sponsors who allow us to keep Salt & Wind up and running.