São Sebastião (SP): discover typical caiçara foods – 04/02/2024 – Food

São Sebastião (SP): discover typical caiçara foods – 04/02/2024 – Food


“We are not taught; we grow up watching our grandmother, mother and father do it and do it too.”

It is in this way, passing on the knowledge she experienced at home to others, that culinarist Angélica Souza, 48, keeps one of the main caiçara traditions alive. Born in São Sebastião, on the north coast of São Paulo, she is one of the references when it comes to clothes-dried fish.

The process, as the name suggests, consists of drying the fish on a clothesline, under sunlight, after salting without preservatives – the curing time varies according to the thickness. At night, everything is collected to avoid the serene. It is a simple and ancestral work, which was born when there was no way to refrigerate food.

“Every traditional, centuries-old family knows how to salt fish. I salted it for my own consumption and to give as gifts. Until one day I took a photo, put it on the internet, and people started asking me to buy it”, says Angélica.

Once ready, the dried fish can be stored, and when cooking, it is desalted, just as is done with cod. The unexpected thing is that mullet, manjuba, mackerel, squid and even mussels can be cured. “I have four children and I raise them all with this work”, says the culinarist, who currently teaches courses on caiçara food and has published a book of recipes with dried fish.

The same caiçara food that raised Angélica’s children guides the life of Eudes Assis, 47, and his acclaimed Taioba restaurant, on Camburi beach. “The kitchen is a tool for social transformation”, says the chef, who runs Buscapé in parallel, a project that assists vulnerable children with gastronomy classes and other activities.

“The region has always had good restaurants, but they labeled themselves as contemporary. They used salmon; never horse mackerel, sororoca. Talking about caiçara food was talking about an unrefined dish”, says Eudeus, who, going against the competition, decided to put together a menu focused on fish, pancs (unconventional food plants) and caiçara recipes.

The taioba cake, which gives the place its name, is one of the stars. Another traditional dish on the menu is azul-marinho, a fish fillet stewed and cooked with green bananas in an iron pan – it is the reaction of the banana in the pan that gives the dish its bluish tone.

During the rain tragedy that devastated the city, in February 2023, Eudes took charge of producing lunch boxes for those who lost their homes. He cooked about 80,000 while his restaurant, also hit, remained closed. “You see the place you love so much torn apart. Houses with water on the roof, cars floating, a scene of war. The Caiçara people are very resilient.”

It is resilience that makes gastronomy entrepreneurs continue investing in São Sebastião, even after the rain and a pandemic that have left their effects until now. Rogilson Moraes Costa, 54, runs the Canoa restaurant, close to the historic center. He inherited the house from his father, who for years also had a 24-hour bar in the city.

Among the highlights of his menu, he makes a point of suggesting the sea-brewed fish, a 50-year-old local recipe that is a type of lasagna made with fish, eggplant and cheese. “Business felt the tragedy very much”, says the owner of Canoa. “But we continue and want to show tourists the entire historical and gastronomic part of our city, things that are priceless.”

Thus, sharing knowledge, stories and their recipes, chefs from Sebastian keep the ancestral tradition alive. They shed light on local gastronomy and generate income for the community. After all, as Angélica Souza says, caiçara gastronomy “is a living culture”. The rescue is for the new generations.

The journalist traveled at the invitation of the São Sebastião Tourism Secretariat


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