Amazon River, Fish and Steak, what to eat in Manaus.

The Amazonian basin is home to many things. One of the most diverse and fragile ecosystems in the world, and responsible for the oxygen we breath. Some of the members of this ecosystem are fishes, and delicious to eat.

The most popular and celebrated fish in the Amazon is the is the pirarucú. Almost 6 feet long (1.8 m) is one of the few fishes that breath air. It’s meet is soft, traditionally sliced in a 1/3 inches (1 cm) slices and just grilled or lightly covered with flower and deep-fried. You don’t want to overcook it. The meat has to be moist to retain that particularly fatty (delicious) flavor.

My favorite place in the world is, and will always be, a Market. Manaus has a beautiful market, exactly were it has to be, in the waterfront. The fish arrives every day and is being sold on the spot. One of the things that caught my attention at the Adolpho Lisboa Market was the fresh air. When you are in a fish market, a smell you should never find, is fish. If you find something fishy, just run away. On the other hand, if it smells like chlorine, don’t trust it neither. That means that they know that they have some “fishy” (pun intended) practices and they are trying to cover them.

A good fish market should smell fresh. With plenty of fresh air, no odors and definitely no flies. A good fish market will have small stools were to buy cooked what is being sold there. Either grilled, or deep fried, or stewed. Due to the Amazonian weather, don’t expect many stews. The deep-fried tucunaré with a little salad on the side, and the traditional rice and beans was just delicious.

Now, let’s talk about beef. The best beef you can find in Brazil will be from the south of the country. Particularly the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Still when in te Amazon you can find a good churrascaría. These are the the traditional Brazilian steakhouse. The meat is being, skillfully stabbed in 5-foot long swords and put over the fire. The once the meats are ready, the waiter will go around the table and serve it in the patron’s plate by slicing it right there. That is how they do it at Churrascaría Gaúcho, at Rua Terezina 568. Now, don’t get confused: gaúcho are the Brazilian horsemen, and gaucho (without the tilde) is the Argentinian ones.

The skill of the grill-man is being tested when the different cuts of steak are being sliced. In every sword will always have some that is rear, some that is medium rear, medium, medium well, or well done. And remember, the whole sword is being grilled at one time,

On your table you will be provided with a small disk, green on one side, red on the other. If you have the green side up, means you want more food. If the red is up, you are telling the waiter you are having a break. Also you will be provided a small tongue, like an ice-tongue, this is for you to take the slice of meat that is being cut for you from the sword.

The skill of the waiter in an espeto corrido (running swords) is to never touch metal against metal. This means that the blade of the (very sharp, even mighty) knife they use to cut the meat will ever touch the edge of the sword.

The trick when you go to a churrascaría is to ask for small pieces. Try to taste every cut, including those that you don’t typically order. It is a small piece, if you don’t like it, just leave it on the side and go for the next one! Also, they usually have a fantastic salad bar and appetizers. Don’t get yourself tricked by these. Salad is what you feed the food with.

Don’t expect modern luxury in the Amazon, like gold and marble, or Ferraris. They do have a remarkable Opera House, that is one of the jewels of the city, and a memory of those days when the rubber barons were too bored and had too much money to spend. The luxury of the Amazon is being there.

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