• Munchies Sushi's salmon and cream cheese temaki hot roll. (Munchies Sushi)Source: Munchies Sushi
Brazil has inherited a lot from Japanese culture and sushi is a favourite.
Melissa Woodley

3 Dec 2021 - 9:13 AM  UPDATED 3 Dec 2021 - 9:21 AM

Brazil is famous for its meat-centric cuisine and 'rodízio' buffet dining. However, did you know that sushi is one of the country's favourite dishes?

The popularity of sushi in Brazil is the result of its flourishing Japanese community. Brazil has one of the biggest Japanese populations outside of Japan.

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The first wave of Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil's state of São Paulo in the early 1900s to work in its coffee plantations. Even though they'd made a new home, they continued to make Japanese food, including sushi.

Until the 1980s, these seaweed-covered rice rolls were mostly eaten by Brazil's Japanese population, who'd adapted them to their new environment by including Brazilian ingredients, such as heart of palm (a staple vegetable in Brazil), cream cheese and mango. Now, all-you-can-eat sushi rodízios and fast-food sushi 'temakerias' are some of the most-frequented dining spots in Brazil. 

São Paulo-born chef, Thiago Duarte, and his business partner, Daniel Santos, are bringing a taste of this to Australia at Munchies Sushi in Bondi Junction, a suburb in Sydney's east.

Duarte explains, "The idea was to specifically do Brazilian sushi because we couldn't find it here in Sydney."

He says Brazil's sushi is "very different" from traditional sushi. "The taste and the seasoning we use for the rice is a bit sweeter, we do a greater mix of fillings that are less focused on white fish, and you cannot find the hot roll in Australia, so we wanted to do that."

A hot roll is the ultimate Japanese-Brazilian sushi fusion. "A hot roll is basically a cross between a sushi roll and a schnitzel," Duarte explains. "We make a batter with flour, some seasoning and water, coat the roll with the breadcrumbs and then deep fry it."

São Paulo-born chef, Thiago Duarte, and his business partner, Daniel Santos, run Munchies Sushi in Sydney's Bondi Junction.

Four types of hot rolls feature on Munchies Sushi's menu. The signature is the salmon and Philadelphia cream cheese. 

"Japanese people don't do much deep-fried food. They eat more raw fish and eat healthily,” Duarte says. “Whereas Brazilians like a lot of things fried and prefer cooked fish."

Deep frying the sushi in a tempura batter gives the roll a nice crunch, cooks the raw fish and melts the cream cheese.

"We love cream cheese in Brazil so if we can put cream cheese in every single dish, we're gonna put it."

Another standard combination is Munchies Sushi's heart-of-palm and cream-cheese hot roll.

Another standard combination is Munchies Sushi's heart-of-palm and cream-cheese hot roll. The heart of palm balances out the cheese's creaminess. People with plant-based diets can order Munchies Sushi's house-made vegan cheese instead.

"We love cream cheese in Brazil so if we can put cream cheese in every single dish, we're gonna put it."

The eatery also features another Brazilian favourite: sushi with tropical fruit, such as papaya and banana, and mango with salmon. It offers a deep-fried-banana hot roll that's drizzled with a thick layer of Nutella too. This is inspired by churros, a popular South-American dessert.

Duarte hopes that Munchies Sushi can excite but also evoke a sense of nostalgia for Brazilians in Australia.

"Sushi in Australia is focused on avocado and chicken but in Brazil, we use a lot more cream cheese, salmon and spring onion," he explains. "It's important for me that Australians know how sushi is in Brazil and to show how it's different from here and that there are other options."


Love the story? Follow the author Melissa Woodley here: Instagram @sporkdiaries.

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