Coxinha, which means "little chicken breast' in Portuguese, is a style of fried chicken extremely popular in Brazil.
Experienced travelers know that sometimes the best (and cheapest) locations to experience a culture's cuisine is to head to the streets. Each street food vendor will have their own take on what makes the best coxinha, so every bite is sure to be a taste adventure unique to the location.
The History of Coxinha
Coxinha's history starts way back in the nineteenth century with the isolated and mentally challenged son of Princess Isabela and Prince Gaston. He absolutely loved chicken but wouldn't eat anything except the thigh.
One day, the royal chef found herself without any thighs for the son, but she did have chicken breasts. She shredded the chicken meat, coated it in flour, and shaped it to resemble a chicken thigh before deep-frying it.
Everyone, including the son, loved it. They soon treated the royal court to the tasty dish, and it didn't take long for it to catch on with the rest of the country. Chefs and cooks still use the traditional teardrop shape when serving coxinha today.
Why is Coxinha So Treasured?
Coxinha is a tasty snack you can find served fresh and hot just about anywhere, from street vendors and pubs to bakeries and restaurants. It goes well with almost any beverage, as part of a meal, or a course on its own with a side of chips.
Coxinha is traditionally a chicken snack, but it's a highly versatile recipe regularly subjected to a lot of variation and experimentation.
Chefs, home cooks, and street vendors have all been diversifying into a range of different textures and flavors. Other ingredients have been finding their way into coxinha recipes, such as chorizo and dulce de leche, with chefs looking to add their unique personal style to a treasured dish.
Coxinha Versus Arancino
If you are familiar with traditional cultural fare out of Sicily or Italy, then you may notice visual similarities between Arancino from Sicily and Coxinha from Brazil.
The two dishes are both favorites in their respective nations, and both possess a rich history steeped in tradition.
Arancino has a few centuries on coxinha in terms of history, though. The story goes that a distinguished Sicilian created the technique to preserve saffron rice for long hunting trips or extended diplomatic missions back in the 10th century.
Frederick II of Svevia also used to carry crunchy arancino whenever traveling or heading off to war.
Interestingly, many chefs choose to shape arancino into teardrop shapes similar to Brazilian coxinha, but the similarities between the two deep-fried snacks end there.
While coxinha from Brazil is primarily a chicken dish, Sicily's arancino is a favorite rice snack with additions of tomato sauces, meats like ham or minced beef, peas, and mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese.
Whether you are in the mood for a traditional chicken snack or would prefer flavors straight out of Sicily, coxinha or arancino are sure to be hit with your family or make you the toast of the night when entertaining guests.