On my recent trip to Rio, one local Brazilian food experience blew me away – feijoada. And I almost missed out on even knowing about it. Luckily I did my research and came across a few recommendations for this must-try dish and managed to squeeze it in on my last night in Brazil. And man was I ever glad I did!
Brazil has an amazing food scene. The country is a true melting pot of immigrants from all over the world, and each wave brought with it an authentic culinary tradition that has both thrived and evolved in Brazil over time. You might be surprised that you can find incredible Italian, Japanese, and even Lebanese food in Brazil, all growing out of huge 19th and 20th century immigrant communities from those countries. You can even find great German beers created and brewed domestically in Brazil.
But the Portuguese influence in Brazil is undeniable, not only because of the language seeded by the first Europeans to settle there, but also in Brazil’s food scene. One meal of Portuguese origin in particular has become Brazil’s national dish – feijoada. But just calling feijoada simply a “dish” belies the full experience of this hearty multi-part meal.
On my last day of my recent and first trip to Brazil, I felt like I had done a pretty good job of soaking up the full Rio experience. I had visited Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. I checked out the enormous Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain. I walked around the artsy and eclectic Santa Teresa neighborhood, and I tried out a Brazilian steakhouse.
But in doing my due diligence via the travel blogs on local must-try experiences in Rio, I kept coming across something I had never heard of before. Everyone kept suggesting some kind of food called feijoada, so I did some more digging on the best place to get feijoada in Rio and all sources pointed me towards a quaint little bistro in Ipanema called Casa da Feijoada.
It was late on a Thursday night and I was afraid the place would be too close to closing time once I walked over. There was no one else left in there, but the one waitress welcomed me in and insisted I get comfortable and not worry about the time. I surrendered myself to her recommendations, and a feast of meats and stews and side dishes and alcohol poured forth onto my table.
The centerpiece of the feijoada experience is a slow-cooked stew containing black beans (other regions of Brazil also use different types of beans), sausage, beef, and sometimes pork and bacon, and it all comes out in a cute little wooden pot that’s steaming hot. Then just when you think you’ve got enough to be plenty full, oh no – all the rest comes out. There’s always a side of more black beans, and definitely rice because, well, Brazil is part of Latin America and, duh, rice and beans.
Then there are more bowls with what I *think* was yuca (don’t hate me if I’m wrong on that, Brazilians, but do feel free to set me straight in the comments!) and then, to my astonishment, collard greens and fatback. I have honestly never seen collard greens and fatback served outside of the South in the United States. They’re such a specific regional food item there, which is where I come from. I grew up on them (well not so much fatback because I hated it after the point in my childhood when I found out what it was), so I was very surprised and delighted to see them as a traditional regional food as well in the south of Brazil.
Moving on, the orange slice are also a must have too evidently. And there were several other random things brought out and placed on the table that I didn’t even catch. The best part though was the bottomless tropical fruit-flavored liquor shots that the adorable waitress kept a’flowing. I think only one shot of one kind was supposed to come with the meal, but given how indecisive I was about which one to pick she just gave me both. And after seeing how much I loved it, the refills kept coming.
I also wanted to try a local Brazilian beer, so imagine my surprise when a bottle of something called Bohemia showed up at the table. Everything about the bottle said it was from Brazil, but the beer being named after a region of the Czech Republic ( I think we’re supposed to call it Czechia now) threw me off a little. But I googled the brand right at the table and learned that the beer was indeed a local Brazilian one – the first Brazilian one, in fact, first brewed in 1853 there by central European immigrants who knew how to brew some good beer.
This entire feijoada experience really was one of the highlights of my first trip to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. I left Casa da Feijoada late in to the night feeling satiated, buzzed, and happy. A great end to a great trip. I honestly had some trepidation about visiting Rio given its international reputation for crime. But I’m so glad I ignored all that and went anyway, and I absolutely cannot wait to go back again with friends. Who’s in?