Açaí, just like anything in excess, can be bad for your health. Is that stopping me from having it every day? No. I guess that means I’m on an açaí diet. If you are one of the people who still don’t know what this chocolaty blueberry type fruit is, let me explain.
Açaí comes from a palm tree grown in the Amazon known as the açaizeiro. People climb the trees to get to the fruit and can walk away with almost 1,000 berries. Eat it straight away and you’ll find it to be very tart and hard on the teeth since 80% of the berry consists of the seed. The skins are what eventually gets processed and the end product is nothing like what you may know as “Rio style açaí”, ie. “açaí na tigela” (açaí in a bowl). If you’ve ever been to the Amazon region, you know what I’m talking about.
Ask for the purpley goodness up north and what you’ll find put in front of you is a warm, rather tasteless soup of sorts, often accompanied by farofa, tapioca or even, yes…fried fish. Believe it or not, this is the real açaí and many people there gobble the stuff up like there’s no tomorrow. My only savior in the Amazon was an ice-cream shop called Cairu where I paid a premium to get my hands (and taste buds) on the good stuff.
Head back to the Brazilian Southeast and you’ll find the açaí there is worlds away from the soupy stuff found in places like Belém. Why the difference in taste? Well, my best guess is that living in a beach culture, no one wanted something warm on a hot day. Add some bananas and some guaraná to the mix, chill it, and what you’ve got is a recipe for success. I have yet to taste anything better.
Unfortunately for people outside Brazil, and this includes my fellow Americans, anything labeled “açaí” there falls short in taste. This is partly due to the odd addition of apples in the blending process and perhaps partly due to some sort of different production process for US-bound berries. The closest I found was an ice-cream by Sambazon that used to be sold in Whole Foods but last I checked they stopped carrying it.
I could go on about how good açaí is, but it’s hard to think straight when there’s a supplier several doors down and I’m itching to get my fix.