Cuisine Spotlight – Feijoada

Feijoada: The National dish of Brazil. It is delicious, fulfilling, savory, and tasty. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe this scrumptious plate of goodness. While also prepared in other parts of the Portuguese-speaking world such as Portugal, Angola, Cape Verde, and Mozambique, Brazilian Feijoada is more than just beans and pork. It has a little bit of everything to make it a unique dish that has protein, carbs, and even sugar to satisfy one’s taste buds. The Brazilian Feijoada was born in Recife and developed in Rio de Janeiro but has now spread across the entire country reflecting its status as a beloved national dish.

From Salvador to Sao Paulo and from Recife to Rio, every Thursday and/or Saturday, the hearty Feijoada dish is prepared for families and friends to enjoy together. While there is some variation in terms of what is to be offered on your plate, you can definitely expect to find a big clay pot bubbling with black beans, different pork and beef parts including oxtail and tripe, as well as tongue perhaps. In the Northeast of the country, the clay pot can also include different vegetables such as kale, potatoes, okra, carrots, etc.

The side dishes can vary across the country, but it is quite common to serve couve, a kind of collard greens dish that is chopped up and stir fried adding to its overall flavor. You also can have chicken steak with fried yucca (mandioca) as well as fried plantains (bananas) as a kind of dessert or sweet tooth necessity if you still have room. To mix with the black beans and the couve, you also have cooked white rice, which is nicely mixed together with the meats as well to create a beautiful plate of both Brazilian history and culture.

To clean your palate afterwards, some fresh orange slices can also be added to the plates offered in order to help with digestion. Beforehand, usually, you will be offered a cup of savory black bean broth, kind of like the soup, to slurp down ahead of the feijoada, which can also be added to the dish if you so choose to. Of course, you have baked pieces of bread as well that can soak up the juices and the broth to add on to an already gigantic plate of heavenly food.

What you need to keep in mind about Feijoada before diving in is that you need to eat it on an empty stomach and to clear your schedule for the day because chances are good that you will need a nap and a glass of water after diving in. For those of you who get the ‘meat sweats’, it’s good to take your time and eat slowly. The Feijoada dish is very heavy so it’s good to relax, have a beer or caipirinha, talk with your friends, and make sure you pace yourself since you will be likely not to do anything else for the rest of the day.

This is not a national dish for vegetarians and Brazil is not the easiest country to be a vegetarian in. You can have Feijoada without the pork parts and the beef stew, but it is really not the same in my opinion. Vegetarians can join in on this delicious dish, but they are definitely not getting the same experience as meat lovers sadly enough. I do love that Feijoada is only offered once or twice per week showing that it’s kind of a national pastime to have it specifically on a Saturday and then you can take the rest of the weekend off as you will probably need to after gaining a few pounds or kilograms.

You can have Feijoada for lunch or for dinner, but it usually is only eaten one day a week. The only thing you should really plan to do after eating Feijoada is perhaps watching the big football match of the weekend and perhaps relaxing with a few glasses of water. You can compare it to the Colombian dish of Bandeja Paisa in a way, but the amount of different foods represented in Feijoada is definitely impossible to beat. You could compare it to the ‘soul food’ cuisine of the Southern United States but there’s still no dish from the American South that quite compares to Feijoada. Similar to the traditions of ‘soul food’, there is a complicated and rough history behind the beginnings of Feijoada which just goes to show how resilient people in very difficult situations regarding food can make a beautiful, tasty dish out of almost nothing or the scraps made available to them on purpose. In order to really know Feijoada, it’s important to dive into the history of the dish as well and what exactly makes it unique to Brazil.

From what I have learned, the origins of Feijoada are up for date but since this kind of stew with pork and beans was quite popular among European settlers, it can be inferred that it was brought over by the Portuguese during the colonization period. However, it seems that the dish was expanded upon by the slaves in Brazil who would add other ingredients such as the couve, the arroz (rice), and the mandioca as these were other foods available to them. Gathering all of these foods together and putting them as a mixture on a big plate would be a hearty yet simple meal to have when it came time to preparing it before or after a long day of work in the fields or farms. While slaves were restricted to rice and beans, special occasions such as holidays allowed them to get different pork parts or beef parts considered less desirable by their masters and to throw them together in a stew to help them feed themselves and get more protein as they worked in the kitchens. From the kitchens to the fields to the cities, Feijoada has earned its status as the national dish of Brazil.

Feijoada is very much a creative and improvisational dish where you have to do the best you can with what you have and put it all together when you don’t have much time to prepare a flashier meal. What Feijoada lacks in flashiness, it more than makes up for it in the sheer number of flavors and food groups the dish makes up. Between the rice and beans, the meats, the greens, and the after-meal delight of an orange slice or a shot or two of cachaça and you will definitely be satisfied with one of the greatest meals you could ever have in Brazil.

Cuisine Spotlight – Bandeja Paisa

For my first post in the new ‘Cuisine Spotlight’ series, I will be focusing on my favorite dish here in Colombia, which is known as the ‘Bandeja Paisa.’ Flavorful, unique, and made up of different food groups, ‘Bandeja Paisa’ is a conglomeration of the best of Colombian cuisine, and specifically of the Antioquia region. You can tell by its’ name that this popular food dish has its’ origins with the Paisas who are the inhabitants of Department of Antioquia. If you translated ‘Bandeja Paisa’ from Spanish to English, it would roughly mean ‘Paisa Platter.’

It’s a paisa platter because there are a number of different foods that make up this huge plate of food. There is a variety and amount of flavors and tastes that you can’t find in many other dishes here. While there are a number of ‘Bandejas’ or ‘Platters’, the ‘Bandeja Paisa’ is the most well known along with its’ ingredients. The ‘Bandeja Paisa’ usually includes red beans mixed with pork, white rice, ground meat, chicharron, fried egg, plantains, chorizo, arepas, blood sausage, avocado, and criollo sauce to top it all off. You have to eat ‘Bandeja Paisa’ on an empty stomach. Otherwise, you may not be able to finish half of the dish.

‘Bandeja Paisa’ is a lunchtime dish and should be enjoyed with a nice cold glass of fruit juice. In Colombian culture, lunch rather than dinner is the main meal of the day and is to be taken seriously. I would recommend to have your ‘Bandeja Paisa’ dish with other people around whether they be friends or family because chances are good that you won’t be able to finish it all on your own. It is likely that the ‘Bandeja Paisa’ dish was made for those people who worked the fields for farming and growing crops. They also could be herding cattle and collecting food for their families.

I would like to believe that they would look forward to having ‘Bandeja Paisa’ as their main meal of the day due to the arduous physical tasks that would be asked of them to complete from sunrise to mid-day. I’m sure millions of Colombians and foreigners here like myself have thought about settling down and having ‘Bandeja Paisa’ after a long day of work regardless of which profession we tie ourselves to. Once again, it’s worth noting that the simple pleasures like a big meal after a hard day of labor can make a world of difference in brightening our outlook for the rest of the day. Having something to look forward to like biting into a chorizo or sampling some avocado can make the work less tedious and the time pass by more quickly.

‘Bandeja Paisa’ is considered to be a mestizo dish meaning that it is a unique mixture of both American and European ingredients and foods. The different indigenous peoples who have inhabited Antioquia and Colombia in general have left their influence on dishes like this one along with the Spanish colonists who adapted the ‘Bandeja Paisa’ to their own tastes and preferences. Interestingly enough, there is also some African influence along with that of British and French colonialists. The best thing about the ‘Bandeja Paisa’ is that you can adapt it to fit your dietary needs. If you don’t like having so much meat, you can switch in a salad or a vegetable. While the original food options are preferred, I’ve noticed that there are a number of variations to the ‘Bandeja Paisa’ and that Antioquians are flexible with its’ presentation.

The people of Antioquia have such a fond love for ‘Bandeja Paisa’ that they tried to get the national government in Bogota to make it the national dish of Colombia. While there has been no movement on having this become official, ‘Bandeja Paisa’ is held in high regard in terms of representing Colombian cuisine and is advertised by many restaurants and tourist agencies alike. Similar to the popular ‘Sancocho’ favored by Costenos on the Atlantic coast and the delicious ‘Ajiaco’ soup that Bogotanos covet, the Paisas of Antioquia regard ‘Bandeja Paisa’ as the national dish of Colombia even though its’ overall popularity is limited to the department itself.

While ‘Bandeja Paisa’ is not an everyday kind of food, it is a delicious and unique plate of food that is a large part of the cuisine here in Antioquia. It is an excellent choice when it comes to filling yourself up after a long day of work. It is very affordable, has all different food groups represented and it will earn respect from the locals by trying it out. My last recommendation if you are going to try to eat the whole ‘Bandeja Paisa’ is to order some lemonade, water, or fruit juice because it will help a lot with the digestion process and prevent you from getting a nasty stomachache. Buen provecho!