Is That Catupiry in My Sushi? or What's a Hot Filadelfia??

Brazil is crazy for sushi. And when I say crazy, I mean it literally. Due to the presence of a large population of Japanese-Brazilians, descendants of immigrants from Japan in the early 20th century, even smaller cities in Brazil are likely to have a Japanese restaurant or snack-bar selling sushi. Supermarkets have fresh take-out sushi counters, and most self-service buffet restaurants will have a large selection of sushi. And this is in a country that is not accustomed to eating much "ethnic" food - apart from Italian and Japanese cuisine, most Brazilians are unfamiliar with the cooking of other cultures.

The reason I used the word crazy when describing how Brazilians are about sushi is that they have taken the traditional Japanese style of food called sushi and made it something entirely their own. There are kinds of sushi eaten in Brazil that would shock most Japanese and probably cause the most discriminating Japanese sushi purists to have an apoplexy.

In the most recent posts of Flavors of Brazil, I've been discussing Brazilian cream cheeses, and in particular one called Catupiry. You wouldn't think this would segue naturally into a discussion of sushi, but it does when you're talking about Brazil. For one of the most popular things to put into sushi is cream cheese, either the generic product which goes under the name of requeijão, or the more distinctive Catupiry. Some of the most popular sushis, rolls in particular, showcase cream cheese along with expected sushi ingredients like salmon, shrimp and tuna, and less expected ones, like strawberries and mangoes. Since the entire idea of dairy products is unfamiliar in Japanese cuisine, these sushis are oddities indeed.

The Brazilian sushi which strays the farthest from its roots in Japan is something called the "hot filadelfia" ("hot" here being pronounced ah-chee). Since we're talking cream cheese in this posting, maybe you've been able to figure out the "filadelfia" part of the name - it's the Portuguese spelling of Philadelphia, as in cream cheese! As for the "hot" they are talking temperature, not spice, as these sushi rolls are deep fried to a crispy brown prior to being served. (Deep frying gives them a nice crunch, and melts the cream cheese inside).

If you think about it, Chicago Deep Dish pizza is as far away from the original Neopolitan pizza as "hot filadelfia" is from it's Japanese roots, so there's nothing to sneer at when faced with a plate of "hot filadelfia". Try one if you're ever offered one - perhaps, like me, you'll be surprised how delicious they are, and will grow to like them. Millions of Brazilians do - websites and blogs by and for the Brazilian diaspora are full of plaints about missing the taste of a nice, piping hot, "hot filadelfia" like you can find back home in Brazil.

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