Finally Feijoada

July 20, 2009

One of the best things about traveling or taking part in an ex-pat experience is that you get to try the real thing when it comes to the foods of the place you are visiting. This can be as close by as Memphis barbecue or as far away as pasta in Italy. While foods are imitated everywhere and a select few are exactly like the real thing, many aren’t.

I have yet to have a German sausage that was anything like those that I’ve had in Germany and Austria. There is nothing to compare to the freshness of a pint of Guinness in Ireland. No jerk chicken tastes quite like that which can you get made the traditional way in Jamaica.

I’ve mentioned before that since being in Brazil everyone always asks about feijoada, the national dish made of black beans and pork and accompanied by rice. I think this dish serves as a great example of one of those foods made elsewhere, but is never quite captured completely. This is mostly because with foods such as this we tend to take out those parts that don’t fit well with our culture.

I’ve been in Brazil two years and until Saturday I had never had feijoada. There are two reasons for this. One is because I really didn’t have any doubts that I would like it; I mean its rice and beans with meat. It really isn’t incredibly different. The second is because this is how a conversation typically goes regarding feijoada with almost every person we’ve discussed it with in Brazil.

Them: “Have you had feijoada?”
Me: “Not yet.”
Them: “Oh you have to try it. It is soooooo good.”
Me: “I’m sure it is. I’m just not too interested in the random pig parts that show up in there.”
Them: “Oh, I wouldn’t have feijoada out. I only eat the feijoada my (grandmother, mother, etc.) makes.”

Basically people tell us to go eat it, but that they wouldn’t. That really didn’t provide much motivation for me. However, my husband did want to try the real thing and I felt compelled to try it since we are living here and I wanted to be able to say that, yes, I had eaten feijoada.

So we headed out Saturday to a local feijoada buffet. The good thing about these buffets is that they separate out all the parts. Each of these crocks is filled with a different version of feijoada with different meats, including one that was simply black beans.

I ate only the variety that had calabresa (a sausage) and a little bit of carne seca (dried meat). However, if one were so inclined you could have (pig’s foot), orelha (pig’s ear), or rabo (tail).

The truth is I may be willing to try a bite of these mystery meats, and I did some digging around with the spoon to see what they looked like. However, as I pulled up the spoon to see a big piece of flabby pig ear, I knew I couldn’t do it. A bite is one thing, but having a huge piece of it staring back at me from my plate is something I just can’t stomach.

Below is a picture of my plate with calabresa and my husband’s with calabresa and carne seca. The best part of the meal for me is usually the addition of farofa (that toasted manioc flour) and the vegetable vinaigrette.

This meal is also served with orange slices to “help with digestion”. I’m not sure how technical this recommendation goes beyond that statement. However, I suspect it has something to do with the fact that vitamin C helps the absorption of non-heme iron like that found in dried beans.
I must cover the desserts as well. You know me.

There was a small buffet of cocada (coconut in sweetened condensed milk) and pudim which is a flan. There were some candied fruits such as abobora (pumpkin) which is one of my favorites. It is candied in a ton of sugar along with some spices, namely clove. Finally at the end of the table was a huge bowl of doce de leite.

As we were eating our dessert, a thought occurred to me. Back home we tend to put those decadent things like caramel or doce de leite in the center of the cake or in the frosting all the while wishing we could dig into a big bowl of just that. Well, here they go straight to the punch and do just that! Doce de leite is eaten as a dessert all on its own.

So finally, I’ve had feijoada, and yes, it was good. However, I still feel that there are so many dishes here in Brazil that are better than feijoada. So if you visit, try it, but don’t stop there. Venture out and try Moqueca and Camarão na Moranga (shrimp and cheese baked in a pumpkin), too.

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  • Chow and Chatter July 20, 2009 at 6:28 am

    thanks for sharing your experience Lori, sounds good though love that they eat it with Oranges

  • kat July 20, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Yeah, I think I’m with you I could eat chopped up mystery meat parts but throw a whole ear on my plate & that might be too much

  • Tangled Noodle July 20, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I love feijoada although I’ve only ever had it here at a local Brazilian restaurant and at home, from a recipe shared by Cris at From Our Brazilian Home to Yours blog. The nasty bits don’t bother me in the least as I grew up eating them.

    You’ve made a great point about the migration of food and cuisines – local tastes, customs and availability of ingredients are all variables that serve to change a dish in some way. As a result, it’s difficult to tell what is authentic (and even for you in Brazil, feijoada sounds as if it’s differentiated between what’s served in a restaurant versus that which is homecooked!)

    I am soooooo hungry for feijoada now but I promised the hubs some beef & broccoli tonight. Maybe later this week . . .

  • Lori July 20, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Chow and Chatter – Yeah, the oranges are a nice touch.

    kat – It’s better when they remain mystery. Chopped is definitley better. I like to consider myself somewhat of an adventurous eater, but I do have limits. Ha, ha!

    TN – Yeah, I think liking those things is a combination of what one grew up with and how adventurous one is. Feijoada also varies by region from what I hear. I really feel like the only way you can consider something authentic is to go to the place, but then you have the regional variations to consider. I say just try them all!

  • Emily July 20, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Shrimp and cheese sounds yummy, I will have to check out that recipe! I just tore out a recipe for Feijoada but I will not be including any random pig parts 🙂

  • Blake July 20, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I love the feijoada in Brasil. I was in Recife/Sao Paulo/Rio for a couple of weeks a few yrs ago and loved it. Really, though, I loved all the food we ate down there! Thanks for sharing!

  • Alison July 20, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I’ve always wanted to try feijada. the buffet looks really neat.

  • Reeni♥ July 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    How nice that they have all the pig parts separated – that I can handle! Desserts look so delicious! I love the doce de leite – how cool that they eat it all on it’s own. Now when I spoon mine up I won’t feel so guilty!

  • Danielle July 20, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Wonderful post! I completely agree with you on authentic ethnic food on sooo many levels :). Glad you enjoyed your meal, that sounds amazing!

  • Debinhawaii July 21, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Yep, gotta have the offal and other fun parts chooped up tiny so it doesn’t seem so awful! 😉 It is always fun to try all the local cuisine you can.

  • gastroanthropologist July 21, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Eating the food at the source has been one of the greatest joys of the expat experience – and drinking a Guinness from the latest batch brewed looking all over Dublin will probably the best Guinness ever. (They even teach you how to pour it perfectly!). And a German sausage from Germany – it really is the best.

    I went to Brazil before my foodie days and I’ll I remember was huge green coconuts and mangos. I would love to try black beans (my choice over pinto – which is more Mexican?) and pork in Brazil.

    It’s pouring buckets and cold here in London. I hope my next ex-pat experience takes us someplace a bit more like Brazil!

  • healthy ashley July 21, 2009 at 5:15 am

    What neat foodie adventures you’re having! I’ve never heard of feijoada but it sounds so interesting.

  • Lori July 21, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Emily – I hope to find a recipe for the shrimp in pumpkin and make it soon. It is by far one of my favorite dishes of any culture.

    Blake – I’m always hearing that the food in the North is a little different. Being in a small town, things are good, but there is a lack of variety. Nothing like Sao Paolo I’ve heard.

    Alison – You should try it given the chance. You can’t go wrong with beans and rice really.

    Reeni – Ha! I felt the same way. Okay, so maybe it isn’t so bad I eat it by the spoonful. I’m just like everyone else here. Ha!

    Danielle – Thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked the post. There really is nothing like the food in the place in came from.

    Deb – Yep, as tiny as possible. 😉

    gastroanthro – I’ll trade you! I can’t wait to get myself back to Europe and wouldn’t mind an extended stay at some point. We took the Storehouse tour too – nothing like a perfectly poured pint overlooking the city. Awesome!

    healthyashley – Yes, the adventures never seem to cease. That is why I must keep the workouts up. Ha, ha!

  • Selba July 21, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Interesting.. never heard about feijoada before 🙂

  • OysterCulture July 21, 2009 at 8:29 am

    What a wonderful looking meal, and I loved the description of everything you at. I’m with you, I am willing to try about anything but sometimes not knowing until after is preferable. I’ll never forget checking a pot on the stove and seeing a big cow’s tongue staring back at me, it was just not the same.

    What a great post!

  • Navita (Gupta) Hakim July 21, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Brazilian food is new to me…ahven’t tried that yet but yes I do love black beans ..:)e

  • Sagan July 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    That all looks delectable. I love sampling different dishes from various countries!

  • Lori July 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Selba – It was completely new to me before I moved here.

    OysterCulture – Oh the cow tongues! It is still so difficult look for my beef and chicken in the supermarket and see one of those staring back at me. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

    Navita – Thanks for stopping by. Chances are if you like black beans you’ll enjoy feijoada!

    Sagan- I do too. It’s always an adventure!

  • Tint~ July 21, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Great! So you finally had your feijoada 🙂 I wish we had a place here that separated the ‘bits’. I had to laugh at that. Nice of them 😉

    One of my favourite foods here is carne louca. Have you tried it?

  • Marian July 23, 2009 at 7:02 am

    Great post! I made feijoada once for a party, but without the tongues and things. I’d love to have the real deal sometime. The desserts were interesting too.

  • Anna July 23, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Oh Boy! What a torture, see in the same post feijoada and all my favorite sweets. I love feijoada but even when I was living in Brazil I would have it once a year only. Because is a bit in the heavy side. And the best feijoada I ever had was in Minas.

  • Lori July 24, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Tint – Haven’t tried carne louca. Not sure I’ve seen it on a menu here. What is it?

    Marian – Yeah, I think it can be just as good without the interesting stuff. Desserts always seem to be a winner here.

    Anna – That’s great to know. I’m headed there for the first time next month! I’ll put it on the list, see if I can tell a difference.