If Brazilian cuisine is not well known outside of Brazil , it’s because — aside from the classic combo of feijoada and caipirinhas — Brazilian cooking is all about the sum of its regions. Were you to be led by your taste buds on a trip throughout Brazil, you would need to make stops in the following culinary havens.
Although neither Rio  nor São Paulo  has a distinctive cuisine of its own, like all cosmopolitan metropolises they have sophisticated dining scenes. They also serve as laboratories for a new breed of contemporary chefs who are revisiting regional traditions and ingredients in astonishingly delicious ways. At the same time, they rival each other in the preparation of Brazil’s classic dish: feijoada.
While tending the cattle herds of the southern plains, the Gaúcho cowboys of Rio Grande do Sul  popularized the art of churrasco — rubbing chunks of beef in rock salt and slow-grilling them over charcoal. While waiting for the meat to cook, they would sip chimarão, a pungent brew made from the erva maté plant. Today, both churrasco and chimarão are ubiquitous throughout Rio Grande do Sul.
Like its rugged landscapes, Mineiro cooking is robust and flavorful. Savory pork and chicken dishes, tutu à mineiro (a velvety bean puree), creamy white cheeses, and a wide range of delicious desserts made from local Cerrado fruits, not to mention the finest cachaças in the country, make Minas a diner’s and drinker’s dream. The historic cities of Ouro Preto and Tiradentes have wonderful restaurants serving regional cuisine from wood-burning stoves.
With its rich African legacy, Bahian food is legendary throughout Brazil , and Salvador  is its culinary capital. Coconut milk, cilantro, dried shrimp, crushed cashews, hot peppers, and limes are some of the main ingredients that go into specialties such as moqueca (an aromatic fish and/or seafood stew cooked in palm oil and coconut milk). Many traditional dishes, such as vatapá, caruru, and abará, are associated with Candomblé rituals. Acarajés, crunchy bean fritters stuffed with a variety of fillings, are sold in squares and on street corners by Bahianas wearing traditional white turbans and hoop skirts.
Fruit from the rainforest and fish from the mighty Amazon and its tributaries characterize the cooking of Pará . The Tupi names themselves are exotic — cupuaçu, bacuri, açai, pupunha, pirarucu, and tucunaré — but wait until you see them colorfully displayed at the Mercado Ver-o-Peso  or taste them at one of Belém ’s excellent restaurants. Don’t leave town without sampling tacacá, a local broth featuring dried shrimp and jambu leaves, or pato no tucupi, an aromatic duck stew.
For an informative — and mouthwatering — introduction to Brazil ’s regional cuisines, treat yourself to a night of cooking and eating at the Academia de Cozinha e Outros Prazeres in Paraty  (Rua Dona Geralda 288, tel. 24/3371-6468, www.chefbrazil.com , lessons begin at 7 p.m., R$170). The “Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures” is run by Yara Costa Roberts, a professional chef, whose fluent English is a result of years she spent in the U.S. spreading the word about Brazilian cooking.
Several nights a week, Yara offers small groups of 10 a chance to learn — hands-on — how to prepare dishes from Bahia , the Amazon , the Cerrado region  (in the Central-West), and her own home state of Minas Gerais. Once the lesson is over, sous-chefs get to sit down at Yara’s table and dig into the delicious results of their travails.