Sunday, May 27, 2012

Feijoada in Rio de Janeiro

There is nothing that the people of Rio de Janeiro enjoy more than the beach. Unless it’s a feijoada. Brazil’s national dish is not so much food as the center of social celebration. After a swim off Ipanema Beach, a walk through Tijuca National Park, or a bit of shopping, families get together on Sunday lunchtimes over this hearty bean-and-meat stew to catch up and chew the fat.

Ipanema is the most famous beach in Brazil. This stunning sweep of pearly sand is sandwiched between towering headlands that twinkle with lights in the lilac dusk. A towering statue of Christ watches over it all, perched high on the rocky, rain forest covered mountain of Corcovado. The Atlantic Ocean is bottlegreen and the weather eternally sunny.
Ipanema is also Rio’s most fashionable neighborhood, packed with chic shops, swish restaurants, and cafés, and frequented by Brazil’s beautiful people. Not far away, vast slum cities sprawl up the surrounding hillsides. The communities are a world apart, but united by the love of a few key things: samba, soccer, the beach, and the national dish, feijoada.

The statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooks Rio from the Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca National Park; it can be reached by cable car

Feijoada is a black bean, pork, and sausage stew that is simmered for hours in a clay pot and served with rice, spring greens, farofa (pan-fried manioc flour), slices of orange, and strong cachaça rum. The dish is almost as old as Brazil itself: legend has it that feijoada evolved from stews cooked by Brazilian and African slaves on the sugar plantations in northeastern Brazil, from leftovers given to them by the Portuguese and meager amounts of homegrown food. There was little time for preparation, but meat offcuts and beans could be quickly thrown in a pot to simmer over hot embers all day as the slaves worked the fields.
Like samba music, the dish spread from Brazil’s poor communities to the rest of the country over the centuries. In the 19th century, a French traveler to Brazil, Augustin Saint-Hilaire, noted that black bean stew was as common at a rich man’s table as it was in the wattle-and-daub houses of his slaves, and by 1833 a dish called feijoada à la Brazilian (beans Brazilianstyle) was being served in high-society restaurants.
By the 20th century, eating feijoada every Friday had become a countrywide ritual to mark the end of the work week. Nowadays most Brazilians, rich or poor, get together for a Sunday feijoada lunch with family and friends. Visitors can enjoy the dish in a similar way – in good company and over several lunch-time hours – at one of Rio’s traditional feijoada restaurants. The best (see facing page) sits just behind the beach in Ipanema, strategically positioned for diners to work up an appetite with a swim.

Best Places to Eat Feijoada

A Casa da Feijoada

This traditional restaurant, just a stroll away from the beach in Ipanema, has been serving feijoada to local families for decades. It’s best to come with a very empty stomach for a full feast, which begins with a little bowl of rose coco (borlotti) bean soup. This is followed by a steaming tureen of feijoada (with extra bowls of meat so relentless carnivores can add to the stew at whim), and traditional accompaniments of spring greens pan-fried in garlic, fried manioc, rice, farofa (toasted manioc flour), and slices of succulent orange. Portions are large enough for two. Unlike most Rio restaurants, this one serves feijoada every day. Crowds get large on a Sunday, so be sure to make reservations.
Prudente de Morais 10, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro; open noon–11 PM daily; +55 21 2247 2776

Traditionally made using pork offcuts, feijoada can encompass a range of different meats, from pork choriço to salted, cured beef

Also in Rio
The Casa da Feijoada vies with another fashionable alfresco restaurant and bar in nearby chic Leblon – Academia da Cachaça (+55 21 2529 2680; expensive). Like its rival, the Academia serves a traditional feijoada daily (with smaller portions for kids on request).
A meal here wouldn’t be complete without a glass or two of fine Minas Gerais cachaça rum, from the most extensive cachaça menu in Rio.
Also in Brazil
In a poll conducted by São Paulo’s prestigious Folha newspaper, Veloso (+55 11 5572 0254; moderate) was voted the best place in the city for feijoada. The lively bar and restaurant serves the classic stew with traditional trimmings. Drink it with a caipirinha cocktail (cachaça and plenty of lime) – barman Souza is said to serve one of the best in Brazil.
Around the World
The uber-trendy, arty Shoreditch bar and restaurant Favela Chic (www.favelachic. com; moderate) in London was inspired by the colorful bric-a-brac of a Rio favela slum and is famed for its exuberant atmosphere.
Its daytime menu includes feijoada and the bar serves caipirinha cocktails, cachaça rum, and Portuguese Sagres beer. There’s a branch of the restaurant in Paris too.
New Yorkers dine from a varied menu of Brazilian favorites at Ipanema (www.; moderate), a mid–West Side restaurant in the heart of a cluster of streets that have become known collectively as “Little Brazil.” Prices are great for Manhattan, and the choice includes a huge feijoada big enough for at least two people.
A Day in Rio de Janeiro
With breathtaking views at every turn, mountains covered in rain forest, and a myriad marvelous beaches, Rio de Janeiro is resolutely an outdoor city. Cariocas, as the locals are called, meet, greet, and eat outdoors.
MORNING : Spend the morning on Ipanema beach – leave your valuables in the hotel and take nothing more than a kanga (shawl) and a tanga (bikini) or sunga (swimming briefs) with you to the beach. In the late morning, wander Ipanema’s streets in search of a café or juice bar for lunch.
AFTERNOON : Take a helicopter flight over the Christ at Corcovado for possibly the world’s most unforgettable urban views. Land on the summit of the Morro de Urca mountain and spend the day walking around the forests here and the neighboring Sugar Loaf mountain (reachable by cable car).
EVENING : Swing and sway to the samba beat in a bar, club, or just on the streets in Lapa, Rio’s liveliest nightlife neighborhood, which is packed with party crowds at the weekend. Or opt for a more elegant evening spent sipping a cocktail in the super-chic 1920s Copacabana Palace or the Philippe Starck Fasano hotel.

Rio’s Restaurant Street

Rua Dias Ferreira, a five-minute taxi ride from Ipanema, is one of South America’s top foodie destinations. This 550-yd (500-m) street is lined with restaurants on both sides – from swanky São Paulo fusion establishments to nouvelle cuisine sushi, Brazilian Thai, and, of course, the inevitable spit-roast meat restaurants. This is the place for a leisurely stroll on a balmy evening, when you’re in search of a restaurant. The most famous are Carlota (, serving Brazilian food with an Asian and French twist; Zuka (, with its fabulous beef; Sushi Leblon (, where you can try slivers of fish with pâté de foie gras; and Sawasdee (, with a Brazilian take on Southeast Asian cooking that is heavy on flavor and low on spice.

Rio’s Ipanema beach stretches for 2 miles (3 km); two mountains, the Dois Irmãos (“two brothers”), mark its western end

Getting to Rio de Janeiro
Domestic and international airlines fly into Rio’s Tom Jobim international airport. The city can be reached by bus from all over Brazil. The best way to get around Rio is by subway or taxi.
Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro
Cama e Café (inexpensive) offers bargain homestays and the chance of feijoada with a local family.
Arpoador Inn (moderate) sits in a modest block in a superb location overlooking the Atlantic.
Fasano (expensive) is the most luxurious hotel in the city, situated right on the beach in Ipanema.

No comments:

Post a Comment