Viva Brazil at Crowne Plaza lays out a Brazilian spread, right on time in the spirit of the game

If a single mouthful could bridge the culinary gap between Brazil and Kerala, Chef Kalesh’s canja does it. Suspiciously similar-sounding to our kanji, the canja is a light, coconut milk based soup with soft pieces of shrimp soaked on a bed of boiled white rice. Welcome to kanji, Brazilian style.

At Mosaic, the all-day dining restaurant at Crowne Plaza, the ongoing Brazilian food promotion, Viva Brazil, presents many such intriguing links between two differing cuisines. Just in time for the football season bringing Brazilian spirit to Malayali homes, the food only serves to further strengthen the bond.

“Brazilian cuisine has much in common with ours,” says Kalesh. “The basic vegetables, for instance, are the same. They use tapioca, papaya, okra and spinach as much as we do, but the treatment differs. For example, while we boil tapioca, they make a pudding of it. Different kinds of beans — black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas and kidney beans — are widely used too.” Hence, for starters, we’re served bean cakes, shaped like cutlets with a crispy exterior and a mild, bland mash of kidney beans inside. There are also chicken empanadas, a fluffy puff pastry, moon-shaped and bite-sized.

The empanada is our first clue to how partial the non-vegetarian Brazilian cuisine is. “Every meal will have some form of meat,” says Kalesh. In keeping with this tradition grilled lamb chops and chicken sausages from the live grill at the restaurant’s alfresco space arrive at our table. Such grills are named churrasco in Brazil and various meats are marinated and barbequed in this fashion. This comes with three dips on the side: green chimichurri sauce made of parsley and garlic, spicy red peri peri sauce and sweet peanut and dried shrimp powder sauce.

The meat finds its way into our main course too with the panqueque de carne, minced beef cooked like a lasagna but with a pancake coating instead. Made heavy with generous portions of cheese, the panqueque could be a full meal in itself. The national dish of Brazil, named the feijoada is the usual highlight of this menu that changes every four days of the festival. It’s a beef stew thickened with kidney beans and served with rice. Although this doesn’t feature on the spread today, the beans make an appearance in the rice that is also a Brazilian staple. “Like us, they too prefer various kinds of flavoured rice,” says Kalesh, “They garnish it with beans, coconut or tomato.” Since Brazilians also favour coconut as much as Malayalis do, today’s special is the moqueca, a basic stew of fish cooked in coconut milk. The dish resembles our fish moilee, but is different in its gentle spicing. The vegetarian options are stewed green papaya and a spinach and oats pie.

For those not tempted to be this experimental, Mosaic offers its vast regular buffet menu into which the Brazilian specials are tucked away. In the salad section, do sample the quite unusual grape seed and almond salad spiced with red wine vinegar, paprika powder and mustard. The avocado and mango salad, and the chicken and bay leaf salad are worth your while too.

Round off a filling dinner with the dreamy cream caramel (pudim de leite condensado) or the chewy coconut balls decorated with chocolate leaves (beijinho de coca). The Viva Brazil festival is on till June 8 for dinner only.

More In: Food | Metroplus | Kochi | Features