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What is Tucupi?

By Janis Adams
Updated May 16, 2024
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A traditional Brazilian sauce, tucupi is made from juice extracted from the manioc root. Yellow in color, the sauce is served over duck and fish, and it is used as a base for soups.The sauce is considered a basic element of Paras cuisine. The recipes for it have been developed and used over many generations, and still remain popular and sought out by both locals and tourists.

Making the sauce is a rather involved process. Without putting the juice through the proper cooking process, the juice is poisonous. What makes the uncooked juice inedible is the presence of cyanide. After it is put through a rigorous and lengthy boiling process, the poisons will no longer be present. What is left is then used to create the popular sauce.

Said to be the dish of northern Brazil, pato no tucupi, or duck in tucupi sauce, is a popular holiday favorite, although it is also served in some places year round. The duck was the first domesticated animal used by the natives as a source of meat, and so the dish has long been a local favorite. The duck is first boiled or roasted and is then shredded. Before adding the duck, garlic, chicory, and basil are added and cooked into the sauce, creating a deep savory flavor. The thin pieces are added to the sauce and then boiled before the dish is ready to serve.

Pato no tucupi is served over fluffy white rice. It is also served with a starchy flour called farinha d'agua, which is made from manioc that has been allowed to ferment. Commonly, hot pepper is added as seasoning. The dish is served piping hot and is recognized for its distinctive flavor.

Tacaca is a common food sold by street vendors and local restaurateurs and is another dish made with tucupi. It is a popular favorite in the state of Para, which includes the cities of Belem and Santarem. Made from a base of tucupi paste, it is a thick soup. Most often shrimp and jambu are added to the soup. Jambu is a native tree fruit that is sharp tasting. The combination of the sauce and the jambu causes a tingling and a numbness in the the mouth. This effect is caused by the highly acidic nature of tucupi and the jambu when combined. Tucupi is a popular addition to this regional food, and many people seek it out not only for its numbing effect but also for its distinctive taste.

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