I've never felt a warmer welcome than when I first stepped into Tordesilhas, a homey restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I was greeted by a wall of brightly colored conserva de pimenta. At home, I keep a jar of these pickled chiles on my table, mixing them into a dish if I'm craving heat, or drizzling peppery brine on top. Though conserva de pimenta are enjoyed in homes all over Brazil, our finer restaurants have tended to overlook them. But Mara Salles, chef-owner of Tordesilhas, clearly shares my passion. She offers dozens of kinds of housemade conserva: tiny olive green cumari chiles to accompany a slow-simmered beef soup; scorchingly hot malagueta peppers to eat with pork chops and feijoada (smoked meat and black bean stew); mild-tasting, red-colored pimenta biquinho ("little beak" chiles, so-called for their dainty tapered tips) for salads; all-purpose mixtures of different chopped chiles in a brine spiced with bay leaf, clove, and juniper berries; yellow Amazonian fidalga peppers in fermented manioc juice to pair with pato no tucupi, duck in spicy cassava broth. "Fresh and pickled chiles are bound up with Brazil's regional cuisines," says Salles. "You should not, for example, eat moqueca (fish in a coconut-tomato stew) without pickled dedo-de-moca chiles." Fortunately, at Tordesilhas I won't have to.
Rua Bela Cintra 465
Sao Paulo, Brazil_