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Brazilian Culture Spotlight: the Baianas de Acarajé

Bahia is a state located in the northern region of Brazil. It is famous for its tropical coastline, colonial history, and rich Afro-Brazilian culture.

A ubiquitous figure of the markets of Bahia is the baiana. These women, clad in traditional head scarves and flowing white skirts, are the purveyors of a delicious style of fritter called acarajé. The dish has its roots in West Africa and was brought to Bahia in the 19th century. Today, there are over 500 acaraje vendors in Salvador, Bahia’s coastal capital city. 

What Is Acarajé and How Is It Made?

Acarajé is a stuffed fritter that is sold and eaten as a street food in Bahia. If you want to make a traditional acarajé take a look; a blend of black eyed peas, salt, pepper, and onions makes the dough. This mixture is molded into a round disc and deep fried in red palm oil. The disc is split open, stuffed with shrimp, and topped with vatapá or caruru. These are spicy pastes made with various ingredients like okra, ground cashews, and coconut milk. This dish is often served with a fresh salad. 

Acarajé in all it's glory

Who Are the Baianas?

The Baianas are the descendents of slave women who sold their acarajés as a means of buying their own freedom or that of a family member. Later on, these women sold acarajé as a source of income. To this day, acarajes are prepared and sold exclusively by women who wear the traditional costume of their ancestors. 

The Traditional Dress of Baianas

Baianas are easily recognized by their traditional style of dress, which is a blend of African and European styles. The signature look features a headdress or cap, which is a nod to the region’s Afro-Islamic heritage. A billowing white lace bodice and anáguas, or petticoat, are wrapped in five meters of saia cloth to form an ample skirt. Under the skirt is the camizo, a pair of cotton pants. The finishing touch is plenty of brightly colored jewelry: stacked bangles, drop earrings, rings, and layers of beaded necklaces. 

The Baiana Religion

While the baianas can be seen sporting a variety of colors and patterns, many have maintained the traditional all-white costume. This is an homage to the deity of Obatala, a spirit of purity in the West African religion of Yoruba. In Bahia, Yoruba has been combined with aspects of Catholicism to become Condolé. Obatala has merged with Our Lord of Bonfim to become “Oxala,” and he acts as the Patron Saint of Bahia rather than a spirit. 

In addition to being a favorite local snack, acarajé is also given as an offering to the Candomblé saints and gods during religious festivals. 

Bainas de Acarajé are a National Treasure

The bainas and the acarajés they sell are an important symbol of Bahia’s African roots. The style of dress, ingredients in the dish, and ties to Candomblé are traditions that have been carefully maintained for many generations.

In 2004, the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) certified “acarajés as prepared by bainas” as a national treasure. Acknowledging not just the dish but the manner in which it is prepared underscores the value and impact of Bahia’s Afro-Brazilian culture. 

Visit Texas de Brazil for Traditional Brazilian Dishes

Texas de Brazil prioritizes authenticity in all of our dishes. Our servers are trained in traditional gaucho style and hospitality, and each of our dishes is carefully researched and prepared. From a perfectly seared picanha to a savory moqueca stew, we aim to give our guests a true taste of Brazil. Visit one of our 50+ locations for your next dining out occasion. 

What is Picanha, Brazil’s Favorite Cut of Beef?

Picanha, Brazil’s favorite cut of beef, has been a favorite in Brazil for years as an affordable yet flavorful cut of meat, especially when prepared in the traditional churrasco style. In the US, it is still relatively unknown outside of the Brazilian Steakhouse. But its unique flavor, ease of preparation, and affordability make it worthy of further exploration.

What Part of the Cow Does Picanha Come From?

The picanha cut of beef comes from an area on the rump of the cow above a fat cap.
Butchers map of the cow

In the US, the picanha cut is known as a rump cap or sirloin cap. It may also be called a rump cover or “culotte steak.” It is not common to find this cut of meat in stateside grocery stores, where it is typically broken down into smaller cuts of meat like loin or round steaks.

This is unfortunate, because the complete picanha is a delectable, juicy cut of meat. When prepared properly, it has a taste and texture similar to sirloin: buttery, flavorful, and lean. 

Where Can I Find Picanha in the US?

As mentioned above, it is unusual to find picanha in American grocery stores, even high end ones. Outside of Brazilian steakhouses like Texas de Brazil, you will need to visit a specialty butcher to request a picanha or picanha steaks. (unless you check our e-shop) It will be well worth the extra effort to find Picanha, Brazil’s Favorite Cut of Beef. 

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a choice cut of picanha:

  • Fat Cap Thickness: you will want a fat cap that is at least 1.5 cm thick
  • Weight: generally speaking, smaller cuts of picanha are better, since they are less likely to contain other cuts of meat that are tougher. Aim for a cut that is 2-3 lbs in weight. 


Dryness: there should not be much liquid coming from the picanha once it has been butchered. It should be a dry cut of meat with most of the fat in the fat cap, not visibly running through the beef.

Raw Pichana ready to season on a board

How Do You Cook Picanha?

At Texas de Brazil, we keep it simple: our picanha is seasoned with sea salt and spit grilled to medium rare perfection. No other seasoning is needed to bring out the flavors of this beef, which is sliced thick with the fat cap intact. 


When cooking at home, you can prepare it in a similar way on a backyard grill. Allow your picanha to come to room temperature and pat dry. Slice the picanha into four or so thick cuts, ensuring you are cutting with the grain*. Season both sides with sea salt or kosher salt. 

Make sure your grill grate is clean and oil it using a paper towel soaked in olive oil or lard. Preheat to about 250 degrees fahrenheit. Arrange the steaks away from direct heat on the outside edges of the grill. Close the hood and cook the steaks for about six minutes per side. 

Once the steaks have cooked on both sides over indirect heat, move them to the center of the grill and sear on each side for a few minutes until the internal temperature reads 130 degrees fahrenheit (medium rare). 

*This may sound unusual. The steaks are cut with the grain initially because they will ultimately be carved into smaller portions against the grain for optimal tenderness. 

Do I Have to Use a Grill to Cook Picanha?

No, there are various methods you can use to cook picanha, including pan searing and oven roasting. 

Pan searing is best used for individual steaks, while oven roasting is better for a whole cut of picanha. Whatever method you use, you will want to ensure you do not overcook your picanha, as it can become tough. 

Pan Searing

Heat an oiled skillet to medium high heat. Season both sides of your picanha steaks with a little sea salt. Sear each side for 1-2 minutes until a nice crust has formed. Remove the steaks and lower the heat to medium. Return the steaks and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes per side, or until you reach an internal temperature of 130 degrees fahrenheit. 

Oven Roasting

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Score the fat cap of your whole picanha and season with sea salt or kosher salt. Heat a skillet to medium high heat. Sear the picanha fat side down (do not put any additional oil) until it is crisp. 

Place the seared roast and drippings into an oven safe pan. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 125 degrees Fahrenheit (the heat will carry over to 130-135 degrees while resting). 

Allow the picanha roast to rest for fifteen minutes, then slice against the grain. 


What Do You Eat With Picanha?

Picanha is a bold, flavorful beef dish. As such, it pairs well with virtually any accompaniment, from a crisp salad to garlic mashed potatoes. At Texas de Brazil, we recommend a side of our potatoes au gratin, Brazilian black beans, or a helping of potato salad with a little crispy bacon. Pair it with a glass of Texas de Brazil Private Label Cabernet Sauvignon and a slice of Brazilian cheesecake for a truly indulgent experience.

 

Keto Friendly Options at Texas de Brazil

I’m Looking for Keto Friendly Options when Eating Out.

The Ketogenic Diet, also known as “Keto” for short, has grown in popularity over the years as an effective way to lose weight without feeling overly hungry. The diet focuses on a high fat, low carbohydrate approach, with most meals centered around meat and low starch vegetables.While the diet may not be for everyone, anecdotal evidence is high to support its effectiveness in many individuals.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

Typically, your liver relies on carbohydrates as a source of energy. Carbohydrates are found in foods like bread, sugary fruits, and starchy vegetables. The liver breaks down the carbohydrates in these foods into glucose, a currency of energy which can then be used to power functions within the body’s cells. 

The idea behind the ketogenic diet is that, after a period of severely reduced carbohydrate intake, the liver will look to fat stores as a source of energy in place of glucose. It will begin to convert these fat stores into another form of usable energy, known as “ketones.” 

When the liver runs out of carbs to convert and begins breaking down fat stores into ketones, the body is in a state of “ketosis.” It is the goal of individuals on the keto diet to maintain a state of ketosis so that the liver is continually breaking down fat. 

What Can I Eat at a Brazilian Steak House if I Am On Keto?

It can be difficult to maintain a diet when eating out, especially at an all-you-can eat restaurant! Fortunately, Brazilian steakhouses like Texas de Brazil offer an amazing array of options that are keto-friendly and satisfying. They are also so delicious you will probably forget you are on a diet in the first place.

Individuals aiming for 2000 calories per day on a ketogenic diet should be getting 5-10% from carbohydrates, 10-20% from protein, and 70-80% from fats. This amounts to about 165 g of fat, 75 g of protein, and 40 g of carbohydrates for the day. 

The following are some examples of tasty combinations you can enjoy at Texas de Brazil while adhering to your keto diet plan. Keep in mind that you will hit your protein goal pretty quickly at a steakhouse, so you may want to opt for higher fat vegetarian options for your other meals during the day. 

Keto Meal Ideas at Texas de Brazil

Meal #1

 

Food ItemServing SizeNutrition Information*
Flank Steak2 piecesCalories: 260
Fat: 16 g
Net Carbs: 0 g
Protein: 28 g
Brazilian Sausage1 pieceCalories: 170
Fat: 14 g
Net Carbs: 1 g
Protein: 9 g
Chicken Salad1.5 servingsCalories: 300
Fat: 25.5 g
Net Carbs: 3 g
Protein: 15 g
Steamed Asparagus5 piecesCalories: 25
Fat: 0 g
Net Carbs: 1 g
Protein: 0 g
Sautéed Mushrooms5 piecesCalories: 25
Fat: 1.5 g
Net Carbs: 2 g
Protein: 1 g

Total calories: 780

Total fat: 57 g

Net carbs: 6 g

Net protein: 53

Meal #2

 

Food ItemServing SizeNutrition Information*
Barbecued Pork Ribs3 piecesCalories: 360
Fat: 26 g
Net Carbs: 3 g
Protein: 18 g
Picanha1 pieceCalories: 120
Fat: 5 g
Net Carbs: 0 g
Protein: 16 g
Buffalo Mozzarella2 piecesCalories: 220
Fat: 20 g
Net Carbs: 0 g
Protein: 14 g
Fresh Sliced Tomatoes5 piecesCalories: 25
Fat: 0 g
Net Carbs: 5 g
Protein: 0 g
Tabouleh0.5 cupCalories: 140
Fat: 14 g
Net Carbs: 4 g
Protein: 2 g

Total calories: 865

Total fat: 65 g

Net carbs: 12 g

Total protein: 50 g

Meal #3

 

Food ItemServing SizeNutrition Information*
Lobster Bisque¾ cup (6 oz)Calories: 360
Fat: 34 g
Net Carbs: 8 g
Protein: 4 g
Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon1 piece (2 oz)Calories: 150
Fat: 9 g
Net Carbs: 0 g
Protein: 17 g
Lamb Chops2 pieces (4 oz)Calories: 280
Fat: 20 g
Net Carbs: 0 g
Protein: 22 g
Steamed Asparagus5 piecesCalories: 25
Fat: 0 g
Net Carbs: 1 g
Protein: 0 g
Grilled Provolone2 slicesCalories: 80
Fat: 7 g
Net Carbs: 0 g
Protein: 4 g

Total Calories: 895

Total Fat: 63 g

Net Carbs: 9 g

Total Protein: 47 g

 

*Nutrition information calculated using Nutrionix.com database.

Texas de Brazil Is Delicious and Keto-Friendly

This is by no means a comprehensive list of keto-friendly foods at Texas de Brazil or any other churrascaria. Feel free to mix and match based on your dietary requirements and tastes.Our bacon-wrapped chicken, for example, is keto friendly and delicious, as is our parmesan crusted pork loin. For more information on our menu and to prepare for your next visit, click here.

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