Discover Biatüwi, the country’s first indigenous food restaurant

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O Biatuwi it is not a restaurant. It’s actually a indigenous food house. There is a difference: as the team and coordinator João Paulo Lima Barreto – Yupuri, in the Tukano language – emphasize, a restaurant has its own logic and bureaucracy. O Biatuwi as well, but it falls outside the strictly commercial route. Here, the food is made by indigenous people according to tradition: it must nourish both body and soul.

Located on a quiet, narrow cobbled street in the historic center of Manaus, a few steps from the city’s ground zero – an ancient indigenous cemetery -, the purple and white mansion with three windows adorned with blue tiles houses both the Biatüwi, in the background, and O Bahserikowi – Center for Indigenous Medicine, ahead.

Inaugurated less than a year ago, last November, it is necessary to understand what the mansion is in order to understand a little more about the indigenous food house. Before receiving the Medicine Center, the place was a commercial point for indigenous products, which came to an end. It went through a period of disuse and was occupied by some members of the community.

Today, the mansion can be seen as a living space, in constant mutation potential. João Paulo, who, in addition to being a coordinator, is also a doctoral candidate in social anthropology, categorizes the venue as a house “that puts indigenous culture into practice in the city”.

In April, the city hall inaugurated the Aldeia da Memória Indígena at ground zero, establishing the surroundings as a space for cultural manifestations of native peoples literally in the heart of Manaus. “We want to occupy this place with fairs, music festivals, indigenous cuisine, with all our cultural practices”, declares the coordinator.

the big house

Granted by the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, the construction is divided into rooms with high ceilings, as in the old mansions still surviving in the city. The place keeps indigenous handicrafts and artifacts on the walls and shelves – some also for sale. All team members, whether from the kitchen or not, are indigenous. There are two ethnic groups that live there: Sateré-mawé, from the Lower Amazon, and Toucan, do Alto Rio Negro.

After the entrance, the first door on the left houses a room that, at first, fascinates anyone who arrives here: a cosmological calendar almost entirely occupies one of the walls, with drawings of the constellations that govern time and the cycle of nature according to the beliefs of the peoples. .

The next room, in the center of the house, is where consultations with the shaman take place. Simple, the space has two chairs, one facing the other, separated by a coffee table. The consultations take place right there, open, in the midst of the daily life of the place and the arrival of visitors. One way or another, those who sit with the shaman say they leave transformed.

the kitchen and the food

Thus, it is necessary to understand the functioning of the entire space to begin to understand the food store. With only a few tables available in the last room of the house, braided arumã chandeliers suspended from the ceiling light up the room and make up the minimalist decor.

The kitchen is right behind. Its details and the coming and going of the team can be glimpsed through openings in the wall. One detail arouses curiosity in the most attentive, which once again brings indigenous culture into the kitchen: a moquém adapted under a hood next to a stove.

Native technology for conservation, cooking and smoking, the Biatüwi moquém is a square wooden grill with three floors, on which you can see the fish wrapped in cocoa or cupuaçu leaves that are served at the table.

There aren’t many adaptations here, as the dishes faithfully reflect a part of the indigenous tradition and food. Lean, the menu brings potent combinations of fish, spicy broth and ant accompaniment.

More than a condiment, pepper is seen as an ingredient that purifies and fortifies those who consume it, as well as the sahai ant, which are rich in proteins and found inside the forest or in the capoeira areas of the old swiddens.

Served in a gourd, there is the quinhapira of tambaqui or matrinxã, with the fish dipped in a peppery broth with black tucupi and salt accompanied by sahai ant (saúva) and a slice of beiju. Tasty, it is served individually and, as tradition says, it is a recipe typically served to those who travel and those who arrive, as a way of saying goodbye or welcome.

O tambaqui puquecado fillet, baked in cupuaçu or cocoa leaf and finished with sahai ant, just like the matrinxã woman, a peppery broth thickened with starch and shredded fish, are equally unmissable. To complement it, it never hurts to add Uarini egg flour to dishes, which is super-crunchy and tasty. Among the details, the cutlery is packed in sheets.

Among the drinks, try aluá (fermented from pineapple), tarubá (fermented from manioc), or sapó (natural guarana grated on the tongue of the pirarucu).

All ingredients and raw materials are sourced from indigenous family communities, a process that even helps to maintain ties between the natives and reiterate the role of the forest: it is the gateway to everything for the home and for the indigenous people. Among all the ingredients and spices, the only industrialized one used here is salt.

food as existence

The kitchen is led by the chef Clarinda Ramos, of the Sateré-Mawé ethnic group. Softly, she speaks of her people and their history with excitement. For her, João Paulo and the team, the food store is a way of (re)affirming their existence, bringing to the center of the table – and in Manaus – part of their culture through food.

It is a place where both the indigenous people and the food speak for themselves, without narrators and distorted narratives. Thus, it is worth noting that Biatüwi’s food is not exotic: they reflect the entire daily food culture of native peoples.

“As you understand that indigenous peoples have a different model of life, other conceptions of life, food, care and cleaning food, for example, we will talk”, declares João Paulo.

To get the project going, however, there were some barriers. As Clarinda and João Paulo explain, they have all the knowledge that comes from the forest, but not the money and machinery to open a food point in the city center. And it was here that the chef from São Paulo Deborah Shornik entered the game.

What was supposed to be a one-month personal trip in Amazonas turned out to be almost nine years in Amazonian soil, with its move from São Paulo to the largest state in terms of land area in the country in 2012.

In Manaus since 2016, she commands the Caxiri, an imposing Amazon food restaurant next to the Amazon Theater, one of the most beautiful postcards in the country. After meeting João Paulo and having greater contact with indigenous peoples, she realized the lack of their own gastronomic space in the city. Thus, the kick-off for the creation of Biatüwi was given

During the period of restrictions due to the pandemic, the entire training of the team that currently works at the house was carried out within Caxiri itself. Today, Débora does not give teasing in the kitchen, nor does she have a direct relationship with the recipes, in which she only serves as a consultant and advisor.

Like her, visitors who eat at the Indian food house and observe the shaman’s appointments dive into a different space-time.

Forget the rush, “haute cuisine” or treats. Here, one comes into contact with another conception of time and collectivity, in which food, above all, unites people and permeates through sacred issues of strengthening and protection.

Biatüwi – Indigenous Food House
Rua Bernardo Ramos, 97 – Downtown, Manaus – Amazonas / Open Thursday to Saturday from 11:30am to 3pm.
Reservations via WhatsApp: (92) 98832-8408


Reference: CNN Brasil

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