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Global Food of the Month: Feijoada

This month’s Global Food of the Month is: Feijoada (pronounced fay-JWA-da).  Feijoada is one of my favorite foods to make and eat. In part one of this two part series, I write about the basics of feijoada and where to find it in the Twin Cities.  Next week, I will be posting part two, my first recipe and a little story about what and who inspired my love of feijoada.

What is it? Where to find it?

Feijoada is a dish traditionally found in Portugal, Brazil and other former Portuguese colonies like Angola.  The dish comes from the Portuguese word for bean, feijão, and is a heavy stew consisting mainly of black beans and meat, often pork and sausage, and sometimes vegetables.  Like all great stews, there are varied and vast regional differences across Portugal and Brazil, but the basic premise is always the same, beans and meat, slowed cooked into a heavenly goodness.  To get an idea for the vast regional differences, just Google feijoada recipes and browse.

samba_feijoada

The history of feijoada is sketchy to say the least.  In Brazil, colloquial wisdom says the dish was first made by the slaves using leftover meats.1  In Portugal, the dish appears to be very similar to another hearty stew called cozido, which historians claim goes all the way back to the Roman Empire.2  Whatever the truth may be, feijoada has undoubtedly found its way into the national psyche of both the Portuguese and the Brazilians.  More importantly, in my opinion, feijoada is a dish that represents the merging of the old world and the new—European cured meats with South American black beans—and is a positive outcome of a particularly dark period of human history.

Sadly, the Twin Cities is not a mecca for feijoada consumption, nor Portuguese and Brazilian food for that matter.  As far as I know, there are no restaurants dedicated to Portuguese food (please correct me if I am wrong).  Considering the small number of individuals that identity has having Portuguese ancestry or who are foreign-born citizens, which is just over three thousand in Minnesota,3 this doesn’t seem unlikely.  As far as Brazilian restaurants go, there are two: Fogo de Chão, the national steakhouse chain located in downtown Minneapolis and Samba, Taste of Brazil, a family-run restaurant in Hopkins. Further, you can only find a plate of hearty feijoada at Samba.

Samba, Taste of Brazil

Samba (922 Main Street, Hopkins, MN, 55343) is a family-run restaurant, opened by the Pantano family in 2009.  On a late Thursday afternoon, I spoke with Gabriel Pantano, co-owner, chef, manager, and son of co-owner Jose Luiz Pantano.  Gabriel, like his parents, and siblings, was born in Brazil and moved to the United States when he was 16 years old—and unless he is speaking Portuguese, you wouldn’t know it.

Samba’s feijoada is undoubtedly good—and if you have never tried feijoada before it is great place to start.

While eating a big plate of the restaurant’s feijoada (only $7.95 for lunch), Gabriel explained to me that feijoada is the national dish of Brazil, and is only eaten on Wednesdays and Saturdays because it is so heavy.  Of course, Samba serves feijoada everyday, and they serve a lot of it.  Despite Brazilian food being relatively unknown in American ethnic cuisine, Gabriel says his customers are very receptive to the restaurant’s hearty bean and meat stew, “[It is] by far the the number one seller, they eat everything, it’s amazing.”  One major difference between Portuguese and Brazilian feijoada appears to be inclusion of dried beef—the Brazilians love it.  Samba’s concoction, a family recipe, is no different and includes black beans, bacon, dry beef, and smoked sausage.  Served with a side of rice, collard greens, and farofa (toasted yuca flour), Samba’s feijoada is undoubtedly good—and if you have never tried feijoada before it is great place to start.

samba_grocery

Gabriel went on to explain that the majority of his customers are Americans, and that the family opened the restaurant to serve their favorite Brazilian recipes—regardless of origin or region, “We never made this restaurant for Brazilians, because this is our home cooking.”  And when asked if he thought Fogo de Chão represented Brazilian cuisine and culture, he said, “It represents the south of Brazil, that’s where the meat comes from.”  Besides their restaurant, Samba is home to a small grocery nook stocked with imported Brazilian and Portuguese food—like hearts of palm, olive oil and boxed pan de queso (cheese bread).  Interestingly, Gabriel explained that the majority of the grocery purchases come from the roughly one thousand4 Brazilian living in the Twin Cities, “The grocery is more for the Brazilians.”

In the end, playing a small but important part in widening the global feast of food in the Twin Cities through its feijoada, and other dishes like bobó de camerão, a stewed shrimp with coconut milk, yuca puree, palm oil, onions, peppers, tomatoes and rice.  Even more, Samba helps show that there is more to Brazilian food than absurdly large portions of meats on sticks.

References:
1Elias, Rodrigo. “Feijoada: A Short History of an Edible Institution.”
Ministry of External Relations – Brazil.
2Elias, Rodrigo. “Feijoada: A Short History of an Edible Institution.”
Ministry of External Relations – Brazil.
3U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey.
4U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey.



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