Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Taste of Brazil - Part 2

Feijoada is arguably Brazil's national dish, and being the food geek that I am, there was no way I was leaving Sao Paulo before sampling this pork and bean stew.

Feijoada buffet
I had been expecting a stew where the pork and beans were mixed in together, but instead I was confronted with a buffet consisting of multiple cauldrons and side dishes. The first cauldron had black beans in it, with the others containing different parts of the pig. In no particular order, pork loin, spare ribs, ears, trotters, and two different types of smoked sausage were on offer. The side dishes included amongst other treats: pulled pork, collard greens, roast mandioca, banana fritters, farofa, and rice.

First helping
Now with such a spread, it'd be rude not to go for seconds, and I was tempted by thirds before I was reminded that I was going out for churrascaria that night. The purple-coloured stew wasn't too aesthetically pleasing, and I found some of the meat too salty, but otherwise I loved this dish. It was so full of porky goodness, so comforting and so moreish. The sides went really well with it too, particularly the pulled pork and roast mandioca.

Feijoada tends to be served only at lunchtimes on Wednesdays and Saturdays (it's tradition by all accounts). So do make sure that you set aside one of those two days should you want to sample this dish. The feijoada featured in this post was from the charming Botica do Quintana, and whilst it was bloody good, I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there. The thing is Sao Paulo is such a vast city that you'd be better off finding a convenient eatery rather than get stuck in traffic.

The other must eat in Brazil has to be churrascaria. To the uninitiated, these are steak restaurants, where passadores (meat waiters) come by with giant skewers of different cuts of beef, along with various other treats such as sausages and chicken.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Fogo de Chao, an esteemed Sao Paulo churrascaria (muito obrigado to my colleagues, I really am lucky to work with so many great people around the world).

As I'm a great believer of 'when in Rome', a caipirinha was duly ordered. And then the onslaught began with a giant pao de queijo.

What happened next is a blur, as a swarm of passadores descended to push various cuts of beef, whose Portuguese names I can't remember. Locals consider the Picanha (rump cover) to be the best, but I'd be hard pushed to name a favourite. Every cut was amazing, with so much beefiness that I dare not eat steak in London for a good while. I also sampled the sausages and chicken, and they were damn tasty too.

With hindsight, I should have had a better strategy in terms of pacing the meal. After all, the green and red cards that signify whether you want more food or a breather are there for a reason. I also shouldn't have eaten so much from the salad bar either, although Brazilian salads are excellent (and I'm glad that you voted in favour of eating salad in Brazil in my recent poll). Unlike Botica do Quintana, I'd make a special effort to visit Fogo de Chao, and as there are three branches in Sao Paulo, there's a chance that you won't spend too long in the notorious traffic getting there.

I fell for Brazilian food on my trip to Sao Paulo in a way that I didn't for Turkish food when I was in Istanbul. Whilst it'd be fair to say that it isn't the most delicate or the most refined cuisine, there is an endearing, honest and hearty quality about Brazilian food. My only criticism is that it can sometimes be over seasoned and too salty. That aside, I've taken a shine to this cuisine, and I'm very keen to check out what London's Brazilian joints have to offer. Any ideas where to go?


  1. Holy cow (heh) that is some day of eating. I'm not sure I would've got past lunch. I love the idea of pulled pork as a side.

    As for the churrascaria, it looks amazing. It sounds like the beef measured up to anything we have here. Was the taste as good as Goodman or Hawksmoor steak? If so, I will have to get me down to the Brazilian butcher on Mare St asap.

  2. I love the churrasco style of eating... I mean, what's not to like about giatn skewers of meat? Hope you got lots of brazilian cheese bread into you too :)

  3. Oh boy, if you're heading off to eat Brazilian in London, take me with you!

  4. I love churrascarias. Definitely one of man's better ideas.
    I lnog to go back to Brasil, but I always get side tracked when we hit Argentina. Next time.

  5. Gworm - that was one helluva day of eating, and one that came by accident. The churrascaria was pre-booked weeks in advance, but my colleagues weren't sure whether I'd like other Brazilian food, so they didn't think to take me to feijoada 'til the day itself. But I'm so glad they did.

    On the quality of beef, I have to say it was some of the best beef I've ever had, and far superior to what might be available to London (that said I've not been to Hawksmoor).

    Lastly, on going to a Brazilian butcher, I'm sure they'll have excellent cuts but I get the impression all the good beef stays in Brazil!

    Catty - isn't it just. But beware of the pao de queijo (cheese bread) as it can fill you up before you've had a chance to get the meat sweats!

    Su-Lin - I'm out on a scouting mission for feijoada and I'll be sure to let you know when I track somewhere down!

    Mzungu - Argentina is next on my list of places to visit.

  6. I was so in love with Chuscarrias while in Brazil - love everything about them the char grilled meat and especially the green and red cards! As for feijoada can you believe I didn't get to eat one in two and a half weeks - so annoyed!

  7. I was in Sao Paulo for work in January and was also lucky enough to have my colleagues take me to Fogo de Chao.

    Part of me loved it, part of me was totally overwhelmed. The meat was pretty fab, but I got a bit weirded out by the whole bringing round after round of meat round. And I'm with you on the over salting (and I love salt, a lot).

    Brilliant salad bar though

  8. GChick - I can't believe you didn't try feijoada. Mind you, you certainly got through a lot of different dishes on your holiday in Brazil!

    Sharmila - I didn't mind the meat attack but I wished I paced it better. If there is a low-salt version of Brazilian, it would be a real winner!