Flavors of the Amazon
"Those who eat jaraqui will never want to leave", is a popular proverb in Manaus. The jaraqui is a very popular fish among the residents of Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas. The jaraqui is cheap, easy to find and very good as a deep-fried dish. It's even better served with uarini flour and vinagrete! [vinagrete = a sauce mande with vinegar, tomatoes and onions]
The gastronomic richness of the Amazon region can be seen everywhere. In Manaus, it can be found on the river beaches, with plenty of fish that you can eat while drinking delicious ice-cold beer, as well as in the streets downtown, where street vendors sell exotic snacks and a wide variety of fruit juice, found only in the northern region of the country.
It’s also present in plazas, such as the ones in São Sebastião, that are full of secret corners with typical delicacies, like the açaí and brazilian nuts; it's present in local cafes, that serve a large and diversified breakfast and that you can enjoy during your visit; and also, in boat trips, that make you notice how local dishes are influenced by the indigenous culture.
In the Amazonian cuisine everything is so unique, you have the impression that you will never taste so many different things in such little time again! So let's get down to the details, because you are probably thinking and craving all the delightful food you will find. We will show them to you, between attractions.
Local cafes and their delicacies
Your day can begin with a nutricious breakfast in one of the traditional local cafes in town. You will be able to enjoy the tapioca (crepes made from cassava flour) stuffed with ham and cheese or just butter; assorted juices, such as cupuaçu; several kinds of fruit, such as cooked pupunha; and the most famous sandwich in town: the x-caboquinho, made with bread buns, white cheese, fried bananas and tucumã, fruit with a fibrous pulp from the Amazonian palm tree.
In the downtown Manaus, a wide variety of flavors
On your way to downtown Manaus, the Amazonas Theater is a must see spot, with its colorful dome made from 36 thousand pieces of enamelled ceramics. The city's utmost symbol, the Theatre represents the prosperity of the rubber cycle, a period of great economic and social development in the country.
The theatre is located in Largo de São Sebastião, that is surrounded by many local craft shops. In these stores, you will find tasty cupuaçu and nut bonbons - you might even want to take some home and offer them to your friends. Maybe one day they might come back to Brazil with you!
In Largo de São Sebastião, you will also find bars and kiosks where you can try a bowl tacacá, a kind of soup made with tucupi (cassava broth, which may be spicy or plain), dried shrimps, cassava starch and jambu leaves. The jambu will leave your tongue a little numb, but don't worry about it! Just enjoy this specialty and set out to wander some more across town and discover more treats.
The best of the city streets
In the streets, downtown, you will also see several street vendors, many who sell pacovan banana (a mutation of the regular banana with a larger fruit), fried in the form of chips. To quench your thirst and freshen up, and it's constantly hot in Manaus, have some fruit juice. In addition to cupuaçu (always present...), the most common types include taperebá and guanabana.
Another exotic kind of juice that you can try is the camu-camu (or camocamo). This is a fruit from the guava family that has 30 times more vitamin C than oranges. It has one of the largest concentrations of vitamin C in the world, second only to the Australian kakadu plum.
In some places, you can try the guaraná syrup. Quite different from the fizzy soft drink, the syrup is made from the actual fruit, that is widely grown in the Amazon, mainly in Maués - no wonder the city is considered the land of guaraná.
All these Amazon treats and many other delicacies can be purchased at the Adolpho Lisboa Market and on the boardwalk and streets near the port of Manaus, whose architecture was listed as a national historic landmark in 1987.
History, beach and fried fish
If there's one thing you can't miss in Manaus, it's the opportunity to cool down whenever possible. The city is sunny and humid, and you sweat all the time. Therefore, one of the many attractions is to take a voadeira (small motor boat) at the Marina do Davi and go to the Praia da Lua.
With white sand, clear, quiet and warm waters and in the shape of a half moon, the Praia da Lua (Moon Beach) is located 10 minutes from the coast and has a few stands that sell drinks and regional foods, such as fried fish.
The Amazonian fish are the basic regional food. Diverse and prepared in many different ways, they tend to suit all tastes.
The most famous - and also one of the most expensive -is the pirarucu, the so-called Amazon cod fish. One of the largest freshwater fish in the world, the pirarucu reaches up to 3 meters and can be grilled, served as scones, with coconut milk and even açaí berry (fruit whose juice is also quite common in Manaus).
Other fish commonly served are the tucunaré, tambaqui, matrinchã (or matrinxã), piranha and the jaraqui (that was mentioned earlier).
Some tours is Praia da Lua also include a visit to the Seringal Vila Paraíso Museum, that tells the history of the rubber trade in Brazil.
After all this, it’s a good idea to end the day watching the sunset in Rio Negro and savoring a refreshing tapioca ice cream in Ponta Negra Beach.