CUISINE, SWEETS AND BEVERAGES
( CULINARIA, DOÇARIA E BEBIDAS )
The Maranhense cuisine has been given countless and often
laudatory references by visitors, chroniclers and historians
because of its variety, abundance and seduction. We inherited
the Portuguese taste for good food, which was enriched with the
meaningful contributions of Africans and native indians.
Our art of eating good food has elaborated very particular
the centuries. This happened by borrowings of regional
ingredients as well as the adaptation of local ways of preparing
dishes. The Maranhense cuisine therefore acquired this feature
of an autonomous, delicious and persuading entity, responsible
for the de-light of great pleasures and a tour of venial sins
that may include gluttony, envy, indiscipline or desire for your
Besides all kinds of meat, including wild ones, our cuisine uses
fish and other seafood in large quantities. That is to be
considered natural, once abundant and varied seafood can still
be found in the island - though it is no longer as it used to be
in the times of Aluísio Azevedo, when, at Santo Antônio Beach,
the whole town heard "a horn announ-cing the fishermen's arrival
from the sea and all the fishladies rushed to the beach , most
of them black, very fat, holding trays over their heads,
waddling their thick haunches and shaking hips and opulent tits."(
The Mulatto, 1821)
A large part of the population of the island has fishing as an
important source of income, including places such as São José de
Ribamar, Pau Deitado, Raposa and Panaquatira beaches, Tibiri,
Anjo da Guarda and even in the city, neighborhoods like São
Francisco, Madre Deus and Desterro. It is true that traditional
techniques of fishing are no longer commonly found, but it is
still possible to see lonely fishermen with their nets or rods
in the shallow waters near the beaches, in islands nest to the
coast or even over the bridges of the city. There are yet small
boats fishing with tapajens, currais and espinhéis.
The Markets are supplied by open-sea fishing in motorized boats,
according to modern and efficient processes which guarantee
productivity and quality.
Our cuisine inherited from the Portuguese the taste for stews
and soups, which were given a "Brazilian taste" by native and
African ingredients such as okra, pumpkins, sweet potatoes,
manioc and local leaves and roots like cará, taioba and inhame.
Some regional condiments are dendê-palm oil and babaçu-palm milk.
All these, mixed with meat, seafood and even viscera supply our
cuisine with a large variety of fried and roasted dished, some
variations being the moqueado (fish cooked buried in banana
leaves), the escabeche and the moqueca (types of fried fish stew).
Some kinds of stew, like those made of tail and chest of vacum
cattle, are specially appreciated. Dishes such as sarrabulho (liver
soup), mocotó (cattle legs stew)and chambari (type of fat meat,
called chambaril in formal langua-ge) are prepared with some
peculiarities, though they are not typical of Maranhão. The
peixada maranhense, a very rich fish stew, and the caldeirada de
camarão, a type of shrimp stew, have been enthusiastically
praised and made many restaurants famous.
The very basic features of our cuisine are composed by rice and
manioc flour of many kinds. They are regarded as simple garrison,
even though they become the principal dish many times. With rice
we make arroz-de-touchinho (pig-fat rice), arroz-de-camarão (shrimp
rice), arroz-de-jaçanã (dove rice) and maria-isabel (rice mixed
with dried meat). Manioc flour provides us with a large range of
farofas and paçocas, in which it is mixed with various
ingredi-ents, such as meat, chicken, shrimp, eggs and vegetables.
It is also responsible for our pirão, (a manioc flour porridge),
chibé and tiquara (manioc flour mixed with water - or fish stew
- , salt and pepper).
However, the real taste of Maranhense cuisine lies on our tortas
(pies). They are not to be mistaken as simple fried dishes -
despite the fact that we also appreciate them very much. The
most typical pies are made of shrimp, dried fish, chicken
viscera, shellfish and crabs.
A turtle known as Jurará, which used to be abundant in the
flooded areas of the state, is the main ingredient for the
casquinho, in which its meat is served in its shell. The same is
done with crabs on the coast.
The Vatapá and the Caruru, which are typical dishes from Bahia,
have also been incorporated to our cuisine. Of course, it is not
a simple copy: they have received a special treatment that made
our versions of these dishes very different from those of Bahia.
If any dish is to be considered the legitimate representative of
the Maranhense cuisine, it is certainly the cuxá, which should
be eaten with white rice and fried fish - in fact, a shrimp pie
can substitute the fish. Other combinations are not considered
adequate to the rite of eating cuxá, which begins with the
correct way of preparing it.
As far as this initial part of the rite is concerned, it is
necessary to advise that the use of certain ingredients is
consi-dered a serious infraction, though some people prescribe
them. Some of these are tomatoes, onions, garlic, okra and olive.
Only dried shrimp, manioc flour salt, pepper and vinagreira
supposed to be used.
Arthur Azevedo - a real Maranhense who was conscious of the
reputation of the city where he was born - wrote a letter in
verses to Jovino Alves, who was from Bahia, in which he praises
the typical food of our land. He says no food compares to cuxá
rice. It is almost and exaggerated preference...This text
describes extensively the tastes, aromas, recipes and lyrical
names of the Maranhense cuisine, whose variety requires a very
detailed study to be known.
Apart from such a 'detailed study', it is doubtlessly worth to
check a recipe of cuxá, enough for five or six people:
05 packs of vinagreira leaves;
250g gergelim seeds
500g dried shrimp
400g fine, white manioc flour
Boil the vinagreira leaves and wash the shrimp quickly. Toast
the gergelim seeds. The flour and the shrimp (and also the
pepper, if desired) are to be crushed in a pestle until they are
reduces to a homogeneous powder (if there are no pestles
available, a mixer or a meat grinder will do). Smash the
vinagreira until it becomes a thick paste, then add it to the
powder dissolved in water. Take the whole mixture to cook, being
careful not to let it thicken too much. Check if there is salt
enough. Serve with fried fish or shrimp pie.
It is curious the fact that the dish is called arroz-de-cuxá. In
fact, rice is nothing but a garrison. An long but accurate
description of the dish would be "cuxá with rice and fried fish".
However, arroz-de-cuxá is valid for its traditional use.
Our sweets comprise porridges, beiju (manioc pancake), cuscuz (type
of corn or rice cake) and cakes in general. These dishes take
manioc paste, macaxeira (a manioc-like root), tapioca (manioc-made
grains), corn, sweet pota-toes, wheat flour, rice, eggs, oil,
butter, manioc flour, coconut milk, yeast and many others.
Spices are many: sugar, salt, clove, cinnamon, herbs, lemon skin
Fruits and sweets are produced in many ways: they may be
crystallized, porridges, or compotes. The most famous and
sought-after are those made of bacuri, buriti, banana, orange,
abricó, murici, jaca, pineapple, guava and cashew.
Other sweets with delicious names and taste are the
suspiros-de-iaiá, olhos-de-sogra, quindins-de-iaiá,
arrufos-de-sinhá, papos-de-anjo, canudos-de-baba-de-moça,
bolinhos-de-amor, capelinhas, melindres and so many others which,
banned from trays and traditional parties, start sweetening our
The group of cakes comprises a long list: bolo-inglês (English
cake), bolo podre (rotten cake) or do Maranhão, , bolo de
macaxeira, manuê (made of corn and coconut), filhós, bolo de
tapioca, corn cakes, rice cakes and so on. Powdered corn and
rice are good for making cuscuz, a kind of cake that takes also
Wines, emultions and macerated juices - which are named cambica
or sembereba among us comprise our most typical beverages. The
wines of Juçara and Bacaba may be drunk with sugar or have dried
shrimp, fried meat or fish as garrisons. With manioc flour they
are usually taken as a complete meal. Other juices like those
made of murici, cupuaçu, jacama, buriti, tamarindo, cajá,
cajazinho and cashew always require sugar, though manioc flour
is not considered compulsory. Our typical-fruit liquors also
desrve to be mentioned because of their various tastes and
Some traditional beverages are no longer easily found. The
absence of mocororó, aluá and gengibirra inspire nostalgia of
times that used to be remembered as wonderful ones.
Togehter with the cachaça, already made famous as the most
typical Brazilian beverage, we have the tiquira, which the
indians taught us how to produce. The tiquira from the Munim
region is always blue and very tasteful, however, popular
knowledge advises the newcomers: do not bathe after drinking it,
for the result will certainly be a long, deep sleep in the
kingdom of Baco.
tables. It is also responsible for our treatment that made our
versions of these dishes very different from those of Bahia.