To get into the grove of the Rio Olympics, we turn to Brazilian fare, beginning with its national dish, feijoada (fay-ZHWA-dah).
A hearty, smoky stew of beans and salted, smoked and fresh meats, it is served with white rice and sautéed collard greens are served, along with a set of garnishes that including orange slices and farofa, a toasted cassava flour mixture (think of cornmeal made from cassava and see photo #5 below).
It’s a one-bowl dish of comfort food, and is the traditionally Sunday dinner in Brazil (as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is in England).
A national food is a popular dish made from local ingredients prepared in a particular way. It’s part of the country’s sense of identity, like Austria’s wiener schnitzel and Hungary’s goulash, Korea’s bulgogi (hibachi-grilled beef wrapped in lettuce leaves) and the U.K.’s roast beef with yorkshire pudding.
According to Wikipedia, during the age of European empire-building, nations would develop an entire national cuisine to distinguish themselves from their rivals.
The U.S. has no declared national food; nor do countries such as India. There are too many diverse ethnic groups with specialized cuisines to choose a single national dish.
In Latin America, however, dishes may be designated as a “plato nacional” (national dish).
In addition to feijoada, examples include:
Feijoada, for example, can be spicy for mild, eaten with a spoon or so thick, you can eat it with a fork.
RECIPE: FEIJOADA, BLACK BEAN STEW
(It’s hard to find fresh pig ears, tails and preserved malagueta chiles in many American supermarkets, but if you want a truly authentic recipe, here it is from the Centro Cultural Brasil USA. Not to mention, the traditional recipe is a two-day preparation.)
You can make it for own; for example, top the greens with bacon, or lighten the meats and smokiness by substituting chicken sausage and/or thighs.
Pair it with iced tea, beer, red wine, or red sangria.
1. COVER the beans with boiling water and set aside.
2. HEAT the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown the pork shoulder. When browned, remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
3. PLACE the onions in the pot and brown, stirring occasionally. Be sure to scrape up the fond (the tasty browned bits on the bottom). Sprinkle with a bit of salt and add the garlic. Stir to combine and sauté for two minutes more.
4. RETURN the pork shoulder to the pot, along with the other meats, bay leaves and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.
5. DRAIN the beans and add them to the stew pot. Simmer covered, until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes.
6. ADD the tomatoes, stir well and taste. Add salt as desired. Simmer uncovered, until the ham begins to fall off the hock, 2-3 hours.
7. SERVE with sides and condiments.