Still young, Sateré-Mawé Clarinda Ramos left her village on the Andirá river to study in the city of Barreirinha (AM). He suffered from prejudiced comments, especially against the habit of eating ants. Decades later, she coordinates the cuisine of Biatüwi, Manaus’ first indigenous restaurant.
“When we leave the community, we don’t have the notion that contact with non-natives can cause an imbalance. We ended up giving up what we practiced in the village. Today, I understand that it is because of racism and I have arguments. And the kitchen is a reconstruction of everything we’ve stopped doing. It’s exciting, ”says Ramos, 52.
From Tuesday to Sunday, she and her team prepare hundreds of maniwaras and saúvas ants for customers, almost all non-native. Taken at the table in gourds, they accompany quinhapira, fish broth with tucupi and pepper, traditional food of the inhabitants of the Negro river.
Also served in a bowl, the broth is the flagship of Biatüwi, which means “casa da quinhapira” in the Toucan language, a people who inhabit the Upper Rio Negro, in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, northwest of Amazonas. .
“Pepper is the main ingredient,” says Toucan anthropologist João Paulo Barreto. Husband of Ramos, he coordinates the Bahserikowi’i indigenous medicine center, which works in the same place.
“Pepper was used by the demiurges (gods) with the function of cleaning the contamination of food and transforming it into sources of protein, whether it is fish or game meat. It has also been used to cleanse their bodies and protect themselves from disease, ward off laziness and drowsiness, and keep their memory and sexual appetite active, ”he adds.
The medicine center and the indigenous food house – as Barreto prefers to call it – are housed in a large, well-maintained former mansion on Rua Bernardo Ramos, with stone sidewalks, wide sidewalks, wooded areas and with buried cables. . An oasis of town planning and silence in the chaotic and carefree center of Manaus.
The decor is minimalist, but steeped in history. On the ceiling, chandeliers are woven in arumã (straw type) by craftsmen of the Baniwa people. The cutlery is wrapped in sheets, arranged on mats with native graphics. To support the gourd, a base of seeds of tucumã, a species of palm tree. In the corners, shelves with crafts and traditional medicine, for sale.
Most of the ingredients, including the pepper and the ants, come from the Tiquié River, in the upper Rio Negro, where Barreto was born. To get to São Gabriel, it takes up to four days of rabeta (low power boat).
You have to unload and load three times to cross rapids. In town, they are shipped in larger boats. And another three day trip to Manaus.
Of all the ingredients, the most delicate is japurá, prepared in the community of São Domingo Sálvio, where Barreto was born. It is necessary to harvest the fruits in the igapó (flooded forest), pound the pulp, put the paste in a straw tube and bury it in the ground for two to three months. With a crucial detail, Barreto confides: “The person who takes care of the process cannot release gas”.
The seasoning is used in mujeca (wai pke, in toucan), the only other dish on the menu besides quinhapira, which has a vegetarian version with purple potatoes and purple yams.
As for drinks, options include aluá, fermented from pineapple, and xibé, a mixture of flour with açaí, buriti, or bacaba.
There is also the natural shaved guaraná in the pirarucu language, a representative of the menu of the Sateré-Mawé people, who inhabit the lower Amazon River, hundreds of kilometers from São Gabriel da Cachoeira.
The restaurant is an old dream of the couple and other natives who gravitate towards the medical center. Recently they were offering traditional food once a month for lunch.
But the project only took shape last year, thanks to a partnership with the trendy restaurant Caxiri, by chef Debora Shornik. For months, the locals went back to cooking on Saturday nights to prepare the quinhapira, while learning to manage the business.
At the same time, Shornik and his partner, São Paulo businessman Ruy Tone, have mobilized a donation campaign to equip the kitchen in Biatüwi. With everything ready, the space was opened on November 14.
Kitchen coordinator, graduate in pedagogy and in final line of master’s degree in anthropology from the Federal University of Amazonas, Ramos considers the opening of Biatüwi as a new step gained. “The period of prejudice is over. I no longer shudder when someone says I’m a native. We offer our food here to a different audience. It strengthens us.
The ingredients of Biatüwi
The restaurant uses a powder with about ten varieties of pepper, such as jiquitaia
With a mild flavor, this medium-sized, scaled fish is one of the most popular in the Amazon region.
Small brown fruit, sour and earthy, it is the raw material of a paste used as a seasoning in mujeca, a shredded fish broth.
Cassava root juice. Usually yellow, in this variant the gum is not extracted. Dense and bitter broth, nicknamed “Amazon shoyu”.
Red ant with a sweet and slightly peppery flavor consumed in Upper Rio Negro and Lower Amazonia
Restaurante Biatüwi – Casa da Pimenta
Bernardo Ramos Street, 97, Centro, Manaus, Amazonas, tel. (92) 98832-8408 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday) and from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Thursday to Saturday). Instagram: biatuwi_casa_de_quinhapira