It is important to highlight the fact that this event featured the first attempt we know of in which wine pairings were selected specifically for Amazonian cuisine. Respecting the aromatic complexity of the dishes of Amazonian cuisine with the highlight being a regional fish (Arapaima gigas) of intense flavor, William Máximo, Sommelier and Wine Educator at Wine & Spirit Education Trust in Londrina, Paraná, Brazil suggested wines between sparkling and white with structures equivalent to the preparations, without overlapping.
The evening's delights unfolded as follows...
Tropical Cocktail – made with cachaça (a distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice), passion fruit pulp, purée of papaya, fermented honey of stingless bees, and puréed jambu (an Amazonian herb that makes the tongue tingle and heightens its sensitivity to flavors) in crushed ice.
First Course: Appetizers
- Chips made of cassava flour and melted butter with the essence of puxuri
This crispy fried snack (reminiscent of a delicate cracker) is made from fine cassava flour, water, oil and finely chopped wará nuts (or uará) provided by Baniwa people of the Indigenous Organization of the Rio Içana. These nuts are like Brazil nuts, though more delicate, sweeter, softer and oilier. To accompany the chips, Chef Beto made an aerated butter flavored with puxuri (Brazilian nutmeg) and black pepper and thickened by cooling in the refrigerator. The butter was soft with a touch of salt.
- Beiju with wild boar
Beiju, a traditional indigenous food in Amazonia, is also made with cassava flour, but coarser. It is moistened and then fried in the form of pan-sized disks. The cassava flour is blended with a purée of ripe plantain with a little salt to balance the sweetness of the fruit. Slow cooked shredded file of wild boar rests on the cassava/plantain cake and appetizer is then finished with an aromatic chili pepper jelly-like sauce.
Wine pairing with the appetizers: Brut Rosé Cava
Second Course - Consommé of Sanöma Yanomami Mushrooms
Made from a base of re-hydrated Sanöma Yanomami Mushrooms (similar in aroma and flavor of shitake mushrooms, though softer) in water with a touch of Pimenta Baniwa and tucupi preto (supplied by Teresinha Wapixana of the Wapixana indigenous group of Roraima, Brazil). The consommé included thin slices of roasted wild boar filet (seasoned with pepper and salt), kale leaves in chiffonade for a touch of green on the plate, whole Yanomami mushrooms, a bit of coagulated cheese (Beto used cotija cheese as Amazonian varieties were unavailable), and sea salt.
Wine pairing for the Consommé of Sanöma Yanomami mushrooms: Fumé Blanc
Main Course - Pirarucu fillet (supplied by facebook.com/northernproducts) crusted with Uarini cassava flour, Amazonian vinaigrette, cassava cream with puxuri, and “caviar” of tapioca balls
Grilled pirarucu (Arapaima gigas) fillets (seasoned with salt, pepper and pressed garlic, onion, chives, cilantro, cumin, and lime) cooked on the grill and served with a crust of Uarini manioc flour. The fish was served over a cream made of finely ground manioc flour, milk, butter, salt, a vinaigrette made with white wine vinegar, virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, lime juice, organic tomatoes and chopped red onions, chives, cilantro, chunks of peach palm fruit, soursop pulp, plantain pulp, a false “black caviar” of sagu (tapioca flour) flavored with lime, and re-hydrated Yanomami mushrooms.
Wine pairing for the pirarucu fish: Pouilly Fuissé A.O.C.
Dessert - Egg white pudding
Egg white pudding with the essence of cumaru (tonka bean), topped with a sweetened caramel of tucupi preto (made with brown sugar, fresh cream and a pinch of salt) and roasted wará nuts provided by Baniwa people of the Indigenous Organization of the Rio Içana/Instituto Socioambiental -Rede Rio Negro
Beiju is a traditional food in much of Brazil that is a crepe or pancake made from tapioca balls. Tapioca is the starch that comes from the manioc root. In traditional Amazonian culture, beiju is made from flour derived from the manioc root.
Wará nuts come from the tree of Parinari sprucei of the Chrysobalanaceae (coco plum) family. Its common names in Brazil include castanha-do-Rio-Negro, castanha-uará, pajurá, parinari, uará, uimáru (in the Baniwa language) and wará, and varete, vimarú, and wará in Spanish. The tree’s range includes northern Amazonia in the Colombian, Venezuelan and northern Brazilian (Amazonas and Roraima) border región.
Tucupi preto is a much-reduced form of tucupi, which is the fermented juice of manioc (Manihot esculenta of the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family). The more common tucupi is yellow, whereas tucupi preto takes on a black coloring from the caramelization that occurs during the process of reducing the yellow form.
Puxuri is the seed of the Licaria puchury-major of the Lauraceae or laurel family. Because its qualities resemble those of nutmeg, puxuri is sometimes called Brazilian nutmeg in English. The plant’s natural range is from Amazonian Brazil from Pará and Amazonas, likely into Amazonian Colombia and Peru.
Jambu is an herb from the Acmella oleracea of the Asteraceae or aster family. The plant contains the compound spilanthol, which makes the toung tingle.
Cachaça is made from the juice of the sugar cane plant, whereas rum is made from the molasses derived from sugar cane.
The term Sanöma refers to a subgroup of the Yanomami people.
Cumaru, known as tonka bean in English, is the essence of the seed from the large tree Dipteryx odorata of the Fabaceae or bean family. Coumarin, an aromatic oil extracted from the seed, is used as a flavoring agent like vanilla. The tree is from northern Amazonian Brazil, Venezuela and the Guianas.
Photo credits: Brian Kermath, Greg Prang, and Ryan Jordan Rougeux