Meat lovers are bound to have a field day in Brazil. From the country’s most beloved Saturday lunch to its best-known culinary export, eating in Brazil, while not always the case, is often meat-based. And as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans. So when in Brazil, indulge like us in the country’s porcine and bovine delights.
Many Brazilians consider Feijoada to be their national dish, with various pig parts stewed in a big pot of black bean stew. It is hearty and unpretentious, and so heavy that it is usually eaten on Saturday afternoons, so that people can go home and take a siesta to digest all that they have eaten without worrying about heading back to work. I’m sure the glasses of potent caipairinhas do not help either. Since we missed Saturday lunch due to a flight delay, we sought out Casa da Feijoada, a specialist in Rio de Janeiro, in order to sample it whenever we could. Though it is well publicized in tourist guides, the restaurant was not a mega-table turning machine and instead an intimate little place with fewer than 20 tables, decorated in a cozy and non-flashy way. Service is warm and efficient, with the servers coming around quickly to serve us little terracotta pots of bean stew and blistering hot fried sausage bites while we waited for the feijoada.
When the main event arrived, we congratulated ourselves for our prudence in only ordering 1 portion, for it fed us two very easily. In general, the portions in Brazil are scarily big, so it’s always good to ask the servers for their advice, or just start with one portion first and add when needed. The pork (salted and fresh, sausages, chunks, ribs etc) was infused with the flavors of the stew and cooked to the right consistency, and the black bean stew was really yummy, even for non-regular bean eaters, especially when slopped over white rice. Orange slices, fried bananas, bitter collard greens, steamed manioc and the ubiquitous farofa rounded the meal, adding more flavors and textures to break up the monotony of too much pork and beans. Oh, and there were pieces of deep fried pork skin, for those who have thrown calorie-related caution to the wind, as well as oil soaked chilis for spice lovers. A simple dessert is included, 3 scoops of stewed fruit and dulce de leche, very sweet and highly concentrated in their respective flavors. A little goes a long way. A meal at Casa da Feijoada is not cheap at BRL75/portion, but this was in Ipanema, and many other cheaper places can be found in other locales.
Our other big meat meal was Churrasco, aka Brazilian BBQ. While Feijoada is not very well known outside Brazil’s borders, the churrascaria is much recognized round the world, with some of the larger Brazilian chains even opening branches in far flung locales such as Japan. Indeed, which carnivore in his right mind wouldn’t love an all-you-can-eat meat gorge-fest with servers parading choice cuts of barbequed high quality beef, pork, lamb, chicken and seafood on skewers?
Not to mention the overabundance of cold cuts, salads and hot dishes awaiting at the buffet, to cleanse one’s palate in between different cuts of meat?
Not us, that’s for sure, when we found ourselves at Boi Preto in Salvador after getting recommendations from a very helpful Soteropolitano we met at the botequim the night before. Service is ridiculously good, with waiters hovering constantly around us serving us more drinks, changing plates, pulling our chairs when we left the tables, answering to other whims. And the passadores (meat waiters) paraded their skewers of freshly barbequed meat around the room, ever ready to slice off something onto one’s plate once the service card has turned from red (no thanks) to green (meat please!).
It can be extremely tempting to say yes to all of the 20+ kinds of beef, pork, chicken and other cuts available, but once you’ve got too much on the plate, it can get very confusing. Luckily, Boi Preto, undoubtedly well accustomed to serving foreigners, provided us with a mini multi-language list that proved highly useful when communicating with the servers, as well as highlighting some of the more exotic cuts, such as the ridiculously tender wild boar. Other highlights included the many different cuts of beef, the juicy and slightly musty leg of lamb and roasted pig with crackling skin, much like quality Cantonese siew yoke. While meat is king, the other dishes were also excellent. We couldn’t get enough of the fresh garlicky shrimp and the warm, cheesy pao de queijo (served at the table) and went back for seconds.
And after several days of potatoes and beans as vegetables, it was great to load up on fresh salad greens with a myriad of toppings. The only things not included in the feast were drinks and desserts, not that sweets are necessary after the meat binge. But if one does possess the mythical other stomach for desserts, the cakes and tarts do look gorgeous on the trolley that wily servers push around the room to tempt you.
So do remember to try both Feijoada and Churrascaria when in Brazil. You might have to go on a detox plan or strict exercise regime afterwards, but I promise you it will be worth it!
Casa Da Feijoada: Rua Prudente Morais, 10, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Churrascaria Boi Preto: http://www.churrascariaboipreto.com.br/site/