I am the recipient of a Bronze medal for a dessert inspired by Brazilian hospitality showered upon our family while guests of
the Mamed family in Manaus, Brazil. Years that pass only magnifies the memory of this experience.
Mrs. Silvania Mamed prepared an elaborate series of traditional Brazilian cuisine meals. The many fish available in the Amazon region were prepared perfectly. A whole coconut was pierced for a refreshing drink for our daughter who to this day loves Coconut water. Mr. Francimar Mamed sang and played classical guitar. Daughters Viviane and Carol “added” our daughter to their family. I have always remembered that their idol was Micheal Jackson at that time. Angela Morango, a family friend spoke English perfectly bridging the language gap since our Portuguese was limited.
Sadly, the photographs from this trip are lost at present. Thus, with a little imagination perhaps you will picture a landmass the size of a continent. The “lungs” of the continent is the Amazon jungle. I had read about lily pads large enough to support the weight of a small child. Seeing them through the cockpit window “snapped” an image that will never be erased from my mind.
What do you want to know about traveling to an equatorial climate? I can say that pre-trip preparation was the key to comfort. I bought lightweight washable army green fabric with a pre-wrinkled look that crushed to a minimal size. My sewing skills were used to fabricate a Man’s shirt, a Woman’s dress and a child’s dress. I ordered silk undergarments that passed my field test. The items were worn and washed easily and given the style, were respectful. We were spotted by the Mamed family at the Manaus airport prior to boarding a flight to Lábrea. They were concerned about us as we were going to a city not often visited by tourists. We exchanged contact information and as a result of that were met by them on our return trip to Manaus.
Lábrea was a Rubber town located on the Purus river (a tributary of the Amazon River) with around 23,000 residents at the time. We stayed with our friend I called, “Mother Teresa” of the Amazons. It was our privilege to serve on a work team at a medical clinic.
During a several week stay we immersed ourselves in the local culture, language and cuisine. The greatest compliment paid to us by locals who watched us work outdoors during Siesta time in the heat of the day was, “You are the first Americans we have met that know how to work hard”. I noted that American Nationals hired servants to clean, launder, cook, etc. When I asked about this practice I was told that the locals appreciated working as the money earned provided funds for school, clothing and living expenses. I am not quick to judge. I have always felt when visiting a foreign land one must be respectful and a good houseguest.
The river was the highway and the local market was a daily trip. I was impressed with the fitness of a people that walked, rode bicycles and a taxi here and there to market. We as Americans need to learn about regulating waste. We think nothing of buying a bunch of green onions with a twist tie. At the Lábrea market I bought green onions without root sold in bunches that included only outer stalks, thus preserving the plant.
Tapioca in various forms from flour to pearls is a starch derived from the root of a Cassava Plant that is native to Brazil. I recommend you refer to articles written by Botanists as some varieties of the root of this plant contain a dangerous poison that is removed by a process. I have visited areas in the Amazon region where this process is perfected outdoors in large metal vessels.
I purchased Tapioca at the local market and brought it back to the U.S. Brazilian Tapioca may be purchased at import markets in the U.S. The Large Pearl Tapioca is my favorite because of its texture and size. It rolls around the mouth and is most pleasing to the palette. The Large Pearl Tapioca is also used in tea and swooped up with a large straw.
I made this recipe for Amy Casaldi’s 2016 Rio Olympic’s opening ceremonies party. Amy’s event planning gifts are shared on this website. I am honored to be one of her guests. She had custom made Gold, Silver and Bronze medals that were awarded to contributors. Her guests were presented with a ballot to mark after tasting the entries in “Feast of the Nations.”
Large Pearl Brazilian Tapioca Pudding
1 ½ Cups Tapioca
3 Cups Milk
Soak the pearls in the Milk for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Use a Double-Boiler to prevent scorching. I made one from two different sized pans (see photo). Put water in the bottom pan.
Bring the following to a boil while stirring constantly:
6 Cups Milk
6 egg yolks (beaten)
1 ½ Cup Sugar
Large Pearl Tapioca (Drained)
½ teaspoon salt
Cook for approximately 20 minutes until thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in:
2 teaspoons Vanilla
Cool for about 15 minutes and use this time to whip:
6 Egg Whites (whipped to soft peaks)
Fold beaten egg whites gently into Tapioca Pudding. This method gives a light, airy texture to the finished pudding.
Pour the mixture into a serving bowl and or individual crystal parfait glasses. The translucent Tapioca Pearls will show through the glass like “sweet” caviar.
You may garnish with Whipped Cream before serving. I served with fresh banana slices, whipped cream and was delighted to find delicious Coconut cookies made in Brazil. See Photo for brand names used.