Trip to Brazil: A blog by Richard Bias

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th July 2014
Ole! Ole! Ole! The first week in a new job is always an interesting one and the massive amount of information you need to take on in the beginning is always a challenge but I have now started to settle into a rhythm and find my feet. Reflecting back on the past 4 weeks of football, travel, food and beer seems an age away, until I start to put words to paper and it all comes flooding back. DSC04290 Our trip started in Bangkok which is quite far away from Brazil, 22 hours to be precise, with one stop in the Middle East for good measure. We landed on the same day as we left so felt like we didn’t really waste any time travelling. There was little sign of a World Cup being hosted in Sao Paulo airport and business seemed to be as usual until we got onto the streets where we found a tremendous buzz from locals and tourists alike. As we didn’t have tickets to the Sell-Out Stadium we watched the opening game in the Hip Bohemian area of Sao Paulo. All in all a great choice as it felt as if we were enjoying the ‘beautiful game’ with half of Brazil: the crowds in the street went mental as they recorded their first win! The bar we camped out in for the 5 hours had the largest selection of Belgian beers ever and served pizzas with so much Calabrese sausage topping that it was impossible to eat without cutlery. Crispy pasties could be found everywhere and came with an array of fillings from cheese to meat, to Bacalhau, to pizza flavour with smoked ham, cheese and oregano. The first of our 5 internal flights was to Amazonas where we were to spend most of our time in DSC_0426 Brazil, this being our chosen stadium to watch 4 games. ‘Luck of the draw’ meant we had tickets for 2 good games and 2 average games but all great to watch live in a packed stadium. We had some great food in Manaus which included the Tambaqui, one of the biggest river monsters you can find in the Amazon. We ate a rib of this fish each with some fresh salsa made of tomatoes, onions and herbs, all topped with crunchy manioc flour which is made from cassava. Staples with most meals were black beans cooked in a rich sauce, simple braised black-eye beans and rice. All washed down with ice cold beer and/or Caipirinha. Twelve great nights were spent in Manaus and we crammed everything in from sleeping in the jungle to river cruising. Piranhas, Caymans, monkeys and even English football fans were spotted on our travels. DSC03940 Next, we headed south to visit the Iguassu falls on the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay: we needed to make a stop-off as there are no direct flights. We chose a night in Belem which is a very busy city an hour east of Manaus on the Para River. Beautiful colonial buildings tower over the fishing port and fruit market as we look for a bar to watch U.S.A lose to Germany. I had studied the San Pellegrino 50 Best for Latin America and had drawn up a list of possible restaurants on our route and Remanso do Bosque was number 38 and awarded "one to watch" so we popped in for dinner. The tasting menu was taken by the whole table and so we began. Dishes included: Aria root, cassava broth, grilled catfish, Amazon nut milk, smoked pirarucu fish, plantain, urucum oil, rice with duck, jambu leaves, Brazil nut, Cacau from Combu Island and cupuacu. The ingredients of Brazil and especially the Amazon were on full display.  With no comparisons available on my palate it simply blew me away. Jambu leaves your mouth salivating for minutes and we had them in both the amuse with passion fruit and one of the mains with duck, both dishes were outstanding. The two fish we ate were cooked to perfection and served so simply with light sauces allowing the true flavours of the fish to be savoured. An absolute must stop restaurant if you’re ever in Brazil! You realise exactly how big a country is when you start to fly east to west and north to south. We photo flew from Sao Paulo to Manaus in 4 hours and now we are back on the ‘plane 12 days later flying 6 hours south to Iguassu. We arrive at our hotel which is inside the national park and a stone’s throw from the Falls. One of the few perks working for nice hotel companies are good room rates when you travel. To try and explain the sheer size of these Falls is impossible. The volume of water while we were there was 45,000 cubic meters per second. The falls are 1.7 miles wide with the biggest drop 85 meters. To really appreciate them we took a helicopter ride and snapped a thousand shots from the sky! The hotel has a fantastic Churrascaria on site and for anybody who loves meat, particularly beef, this is a must do. Cold dishes, salads and some hot dishes are served on a buffet counter and once you are seated the fun begins!  Meat after meat comes around to the table and carved on to your plate from large skewers:  strip loin, flank steak, chicken hearts and spicy sausage.  Short rib comes to the table on a trolley: pork ribs, lamb leg and beef tongue to name a few items. On the DSC03819 table they supply you with a green and red card which you can show when you have had enough or you’re ready for more. It is a glutton’s delight but a very nice experience indeed. Knock-out games are enjoyed as we press on with our travels and the final destination is ever creeping closer:  Rio. Not nearly enough time here to soak up the atmosphere and culture and spend some much needed time on the beach but we made the most of the time we had. Sights on the list: Christ Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain, cable car and late lunch in Urca at the most famous of Rio’s restaurants where they have been serving the same great food for decades. Fried sardines, Bacalhau pasties, bean soup and the famous seafood soup all washed down with ice cold beer whilst sitting on the harbour wall watching the sun go down over the bay. The beaches of Rio are used by the locals as their backyard and early in the morning they are a hive of activity with people doing their exercises and after lunch they get really busy with football, surfing, sunbathing and of course watching the game in the huge fun park on Copacabana. Time flies when you are having fun and we must head home:  well to the next job anyway. Brazil is a huge awesome country and has the most amazing people living there with a lust and passion for life, good food, cold beer and football which I salute! Richard Bias is the 32-year-old executive chef of a hotel in Siem Reap in Cambodia, a  Richard Biaspopular tourist destination due to its proximity to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex. He previously worked in Sapa in Vietnam for three and half years and before that he had stints in Ireland Cambodia and Dubai including the world’s only seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab. Richard originally comes from Harlow on the river Thames where as a child he helped out in the kitchen of the family pub. As a young chef Richard was a finalist in the Academy of Culinary Arts Awards of Excellence, runner up in the first ever Gordon Ramsay Scholarship and winner of the Rungis Club UK’s Young Chef of the Year. Richard shares more of his experiences on his online blog ‘culinaryinspirations’. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th July 2014

Trip to Brazil: A blog by Richard Bias