The African diet is presented by Luís da Câmara Cascudo, in his “History of Food in Brazil”, as one of the pillars in the formation of the country’s gastronomy. It is curious to realize how much these traditions are so present in the daily flavors of Brazilians, but so far from being truly recognized by the majority of the population. It is a food that is at the same time so intimate, but so foreign to our palate.
Just look at the menu at Biyou’z Culinária Africana, one of the main representatives of the continent’s gastronomy in São Paulo, to realize this paradox.
Traditional dishes from the continent such as abisse, attieke, issingui, kigaly, fumbua and mbongo tchiobi need to be accompanied by detailed descriptions of ingredients and preparation methods, as well as photos showing their appearance.
But you just have to ignore this initial strangeness when faced with dishes that sound unfamiliar to understand the influence cited by Câmara Cascudo.
A feeling of familiarity and surprise is present in every bite of the more than 20 dishes offered by Biyou’z. It is possible to recognize the ingredients, the aromas, the flavors. But at the same time, the combinations found are different, surprising, challenging and even exciting.
And the sauces are the highlight of the African food presented there.
The mafé (R$43) features fried fish with a rich broth made with roasted peanuts that seems to deliciously envelop all your taste buds. The egussi (R$50), recommended by a waiter as being one of the best in the house, is more enigmatic, but equally very tasty. Mix of familiar and surprising flavors with chicken pieces and a pumpkin seed sauce, ground shrimp and tomato.
The DG (R$45) is more familiar, with a mixture of fried plantains with vegetables and chicken. And the fumbua (R$55) returns to the mixture of ground peanuts and shrimp in the sauce, with a traditional African dried leaf that gives the dish its name and a more earthy flavor.
Sauces are such a center of attention that most dishes allow you to change between meat, fish and chicken that go into the main dishes. And it’s worth highlighting that we’re not talking about fillet, but pieces of fish and chicken with bones and bones, which help to add even more flavor to the dishes, even though they can make the eating process more challenging.
The dishes are very well served, and the presentation is very simple, homemade food.
Cassava is present as a frequent accompaniment, but what catches the most attention is the fufu, which comes with many of the house’s great sauces. It looks like white polenta, but it’s made from rice, with a texture between creamy and gelatinous, but without much flavor.
For starters, there are meat and fish cakes, as well as pastries. The option with the most attractive description is the kai (R$ 27), which are jilós stuffed with pork, but which have a mild flavor and don’t stand out as much, and end up overshadowed by the strong flavor of the main dishes.
For dessert, the cassava jam (R$20) surprises. It’s a cream with a slightly “sandy” texture (like flour?) and a pleasant sour touch that contrasts with the sugar and doesn’t make it too sweet.
Biyou’z is a project by Cameroonian chef Melanito Biyouha, with two locations in the city, in Campos Elíseos and Consolação. Even though Africa is not a country, she studied different cultures to bring them together in one place, a good way to introduce this old novelty to the Brazilian palate.
With a very striking flavor, Biyou’z’s food has a somewhat mysterious and surprising aura amidst much familiarity. With each visit, you want to come back more often to discover all the dishes and their delicious sauces.
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