Served at the winter festivities of Festa Junina, pamonha is a Brazilian boiled corn paste. During the boiling process, traditionally the paste is wrapped in a corn husk and then tied with string. When the pamonha is served, it is often with the corn husk on or still around it, although the husk is not to be eaten.
The name pamonha comes from the Tupi language. It means sticky, which certainly describes this Brazilian food. Throughout the country the corn paste is served along with a meal, as a snack or a meal in itself, or as a dessert, dependent upon the type of flavorings that are added.
Pamonhas can be either sweet or savory. Traditionally those that are sweet are served in the southern part of Brazil, and those that are savory are most often found in central Brazil. The coastal plains region are known for their pamonhas.
The foods and recipes of Brazil were largely influenced by those immigrants from Portugal, Germany, and Italy. The cooking style of the northeast and coastal plain regions, where the pamonha is commonly found, was largely influenced by the immigrants from Portugal and Africa. This fertile plain had many kinds of fresh produce available on an ongoing basis. The corn used for pamonhas was a staple crop in the region. The recipe evolved from the plantation cooks who used locally available ingredients. Black beans and rice are a staple meal for this regionm and the pamonha is often served along side.
To make a pamonha, a paste is made from corn and milk. During the cooking process, to this paste can be added coconut milk, sugar, or shredded coconut to create a sweet flavor. Cheese, sausage, or peppers can be added for a more savory taste. The paste is then spooned onto the husk. The husk is then folded and wrapped securely so no water can seep in during the cooking process. The pamonhas will then be cooked for 45 minutes to an hour in boiling water.
Roadside restaurants serving hot and fresh pamonhas are commonly found in the northeast region of the country. Steaming homemade pamonhas are also served out of cars along roads throughout the region. Cooked in the home or at a roadside restaurant, the pamonha is a favorite of many local people and many tourists as well.