Until a couple of years ago, most of you would have wondered what that somewhat weird-looking, dark brown stuff is over which everbody is going crazy all of a sudden. Today, after several years of mispronunciations, Açaí has finally entered the mainstream. Well, at least in urban centers of the western hemisphere where the presence of a luscious Açaí breakfast bowl almost determines whether a café is hip or not. Though, to be very honest, the super instagrammable hipster bowls with all their froufrous and fancy ingredients can hardly keep up with the original Açaí Na Tigela served in no-frills plastic cups. So let’s take a look where the healthy treat comes from initially.
Açaí Na Tigela, simply meaning “açaí in the bowl”, is a true summertime staple across Brazil. Especially in southern areas like Rio de Janeiro, juice bars and stands by the beach sell it by the thousands every day. Served in small bowls or simply plastic cups for take-away, the exotic specialty is omnipresent. After all, the iced snack is the perfect representation of Carioca lifestyle. What better way to start your day than with a light, healthy and energizing superfood breakfast before heading to the beach or going for your morning run!?
Of course, Açaí Na Tigela doesn’t only work for breakfast. It is a true allrounder that gets you through the hot season. Whether as a refreshing snack between lunch and dinner, as an aliment before hitting the gym or as a proper post-workout meal. The berry smoothie will fill you up without making you feel heavy.
Enjoy It Like A Carioca!
With the use of a blender, the vendors turn frozen Açaí pulp into a thick, sorbet-like smoothie. The texture could best be compared to Slushies, Frozen Daiquiri or Italian Granita. Brazilians most commonly enjoy the frozen berrie smoothie plain or with a topping of banana slices and granola. Blending some banana together with the açaí gives it an especially smooth texture. Many juice bars also offer an endless variety of other fruits and granola variations. Since Brazilians tend to have quite a sweet tooth, some guaraná syrup helps overcome the rather sour taste of the little, blue berries. And on top, it doesn’t only add sweetness to the iced smoothie but also boosts your metabolism with its high concentration of caffeine.
But Wait…What Is Açaí?
The small, blue berries that are increasingly conquering the world’s hip cafes and supermarket shelves are a fruit that is originally native to the Amazonian rainforests of South America. Especially their reputation as a superfood has helped them gain the attention of the health-conscious crowds. The little balls of a deep purple color grow on tall and slim Açaí palm trees. The berries are about 1-2 cm in diameter and hang from long vines by the hundreds. Although Açaí somewhat resembles blueberries from the looks, their taste and insides are completely different. The seed makes up about 80-90 percent of the entire jungle fruit, leaving only a tiny edible portion.
When it comes to flavor, there is simply nothing alike. At best, Açaí could be described as a mix of typical berry aromas with a hint of chocolate and a somewhat irony aftertaste.
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A Real Superfood? – Açaí Bowl Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits
There are usually three things that all proclaimed superfoods have in common. They all show high concentration of different kinds of vitamins or other properties beneficial to our health. At the same time, though, they are no magic potions that make you immortal and free you from all kinds of physical complaints. And what is most important to keep in mind: only because a dish contains loads of superfoods, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy. Mixing anything with huge amounts of sugar will end up being bad for you.
Now, that we have talked about these general truths, the question remains: Is Açaí good for you? Or is it just a delicious treat that has been hyped a little too much?
Looking at the berries’ nutrition facts, gladly gives us some relief. We haven’t fallen victim to a marketing trap without substance. The Brazilian specialty actually is superior to other kinds of berries. The Amazonian fruit contains exceptionally high amounts of unsaturated fats such as omega 3, fibres, vitamins A, B, C and E as well as calcium and iron. These nutrients come with numerous benefits from improved skin or weight loss to anti-aging and immune-strengthening effects. All to a limited extent, of course!
Not to forget that it is completely packed with antioxidants. The contained anthocyanin has the capability to lower oxidative stress and inflammation. As a result it doesn’t only foster brain health but may even lower risk of severe diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
What About The Calories?
The good news don’t seem to end. Whether you are training for a marathon or leg day is coming up again, the above mentioned properties also got your back with faster recovery times and increased stamina. And for your daily dose of protein, the energizing sorbet awaits with an amount that almost equals that of an egg. But in contrast to the animal product, the delicious smoothie is perfectly suited for vegans. And without the sweetening syrup, Açaí Na Tigela is surely one of the low-carb and healthier ice cream alternatives out there. Yet, despite all the health benefits, it is extremely important not to live off of Açai alone. It won’t increase the effects but rather work in a counterproductive way. After all, a balanced diet is irreplaceable!
When looking at calories, the story isn’t as clear though. It is difficult to provide an exact value for a portion of the frozen goods as it highly depends on the preparation. When getting one of those fancy hipster bowls you can almost be sure to be eating loads of hidden sugars. Thus, to keep it healthy and in line with your fitness plan, try making your Açaí Na Tigela at home where you can best control the calories and especially their composition.
Solving The Mystery: How To Pronounce Açaí
So, after having clarified the controversion about the blue berries’ superfood status, let’s go back to the one remaining problem hipsters around the globe face. When asking around, you will stumble upon a wild range of possible pronunciations from Akay or Acai to something like Assay or even Achai. The correct way, however, is to put the emphasis right on the end. Something along the lines of “Ah-sah-ii” or “ah-sigh-EE”. Once you know it, it’s pretty simple actually. Now, go out and spread the word!
The Original Açaí “Bowl” Will Surprise You
As mentioned before, Açaí Na Tigela can nowadays be found throughout Brazil. That doesn’t mean however, that it is the same dish all over the place. In a country as huge as Brazil, great variations aren’t unusual. And the differences in how people consume Açaí from north to south could hardly be greater. While the frozen berry smoothie in the southern areas around Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis could be described as a simpler version of the globally hyped breakfast bowl, the original from the north is rather a salty lunch or dinner specialty. Instead of sweetening ingredients, the traditional recipe from the Amazon contains tapioca as well as shrimp or dried fish. Didn’t see that coming, right!?
How To Make Açaí Na Tigela At Home
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to just stroll over to one of Rio’s beautiful beaches for your daily dose of Açaí Na Tigela, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on it completely. The most traditional Açaí bowl recipe basically only contains three ingredients and is super easy to make. The only issue that you may face is the availability of Açaí berries depending on where you live. Powdered Açaí has become widely available in many countries but shouldn’t be your first choice when making a smoothie bowl. Check your supermarkets, specialty stores or vendors for organic and healthy foods for frozen Açaí pulp.
Once you accomplished the mission, our authentic recipe below will help you with the rest. You can either enjoy your plain Açaí Na Tigela just like that or get creative with all the toppings you can possibly imagine. Think of your favorite fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, pineapple or passion fruit for example. Try it for yourself and let us know about your winning combo in the comments.
Special tip: add additional dairy-free milk alternatives or juice to make it a drink. Or use peanut butter or avocado to make it a thicker, more filling meal.
Photos by SunnySideCircus