One of Rio and Brazil’s emblematic dishes is feijoada. Brazilians consider it a national dish. It is a rich stew of beans, sausages, beef and pork; its origin is Portuguese. The name comes from feijão, Portuguese for “beans”. A Brazilian acquaintance had many years ago insisted that I try it, and finally we had a great opportunity. After we arrived in Rio, we asked for recommendations for good restaurants where we could enjoy feijoada. The answer was repeatedly Casa da Feijoada — of course: The House of Feijoada!
We arrived in mid-lunchtime to find the restaurant empty except for one other (foreign tourist) couple. After we had enjoyed our feijoada feast, we realized that this was no ordinary mid-day meal; an office worker could not eat this and do anything productive for the rest of the day. Hence the restaurant’s lunchtime tranquility.
Fortunately, the cause was not bad food. Or skimpy portions. You can see the steaming crock of tender meat: pork ribs, sausages, cuts of beef.
The accompaniments were rice, black beans, greens and cassava (or manioc or yucca) in many forms. Cassava is an important starch in the Brazilian diet. Sometimes it shows up like potatoes, many times as breads, and often as crunchy toppings. It is gluten-free! It was part of every meal we had in Rio. In the street market we visited on our food tour, vendors offered a multitude of milled varieties.
Feijoada made us think of cassoulet. In our region of France, this white bean, pork, sausage and duck stew is famous. No traditional restaurant in Carcassonne omits cassoulet from the menu. On a cold day, the heartiness of the meats and beans is so comforting. Feijoada and cassoulet are just two of the myriad of slow-cooking stews around the world. Take a hearty plentiful base like beans or root-vegetables, and add whatever meats are available. Here is just a sampling. It is easy to understand how a versatile filling stew would be the basis of the diet of many rural cultures.
But here we were on a hot Rio summer day. Still the stew was luscious. We were definitely not in France: cassava, tropical fruits, black beans, and Brazilian beer!
A siesta was necessary.
Food tour of Rio
With our friends Gail and David, we joined a food tour of parts of Rio. Our EatRio tour guide, Vinicius, was superb. He was full of energy and information. He is also a graduate student in anthropology. He brought a thoughtfulness to the tour that many guides lack.
After the tour, Vinicius sent us the detailed list of the places we had visited and the foods we had eaten. I’m organizing this post around his summary, with our photos to illustrate.
Some foods were partially familiar — tropical fruits, custards, the ubiquitous salted cod croquettes — but many were completely new to us. How fun to start to discover startlingly new foods and ingredients! The world is huge — and delicious!
Street Market: Caldo de cana (sugar-cane juice with fresh lime juice), Beiju de Tapioca (tapioca pancakes), Manga Palmer (large sweet mango with no strings), Jaca (Jackfruit), Maxixe (spiky, lemony cucumber), Jiló (small green bitter vegetable related to egg plant/aubergine), Acerola (sour red berries high in Vitamin C), Pitomba (like a primitive lychee)
Nova Capela: Chopp Brahma (Brazil’s most popular draft beer), Bolinhos de bacalhau (salt cod and potato croquettes), Pastel de nata (classic Portuguese egg custard tart)
Belmonte (Caipirinhas): Limão (Lime), Maracujá (Passionfruit), Morango (Strawberry), Siriguela (Yellow, plum-like fruit)
Juice Bar: Suco de Acerola (juice of the acerola berry, high in vitamin C), Suco de Amora (juice of the Brazilian blackberry), Pão de Queijo (chewy Brazilian cheese bread puffs)
Amazonian Restaurant: Tacacá (the strange Amazonian soup which leaves your tongue tingling), Açaí (fruit pulp of açaí berry, slightly sweetened with guaraná syrup), Cerpa (pilsner beer brewed in the Amazon)
Final Northeastern Restaurant: Pastel (deep-fried pastry parcels), Bolinhos de jaba (pumpkin croquettes with cured beef), Cerveja Colorado (Beer from São Paulo), Cachaça de Jambú (the weird spirit that makes your tongue tingle!), Carne seca com abobora e feijão de corda (air-dried, salted beef with pumpkin and beans), Moqueca Baiana (stew of shrimp or fish, made with coconut milk, peppers and red palm oil), Couve (shredded bitter collard greens cooked with garlic), Maria Bonita (cured beef, rice and beans, fried yuca/cassava), Bombons de Cupuaçú (sweet cupuaçú fruit covered in dulce de leche and chocolate), Cafezinho (coffee to finish)