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Feijoada Wins The Gold In Brazilian Cuisine

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

We're going to be hearing a lot about the Olympics over the next two weeks, so we thought it's a good time to find out more about the country where the games are underway. Yesterday you got a quick introduction to Brazilian music, today an exploration of the country's food. Not too far from NPR studios in Washington, D.C., you'll find a restaurant called The Grill of Ipanema.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SUAREZ: We decided to head over there to learn more about the preparation of what is likely Brazil's best-known dish. In a hot country and equatorial country, it's a stew.

ALCY DE SOUZA: Feijoada. It's Brazil's soul food.

SUAREZ: That's Alcy de Souza, chef and owner of the restaurant.

DE SOUZA: My feijoada is a kind of a light feijoada. We don't put everything that we do in Brazil, OK? We put less the pork loin, the pork ribs, the smoked sausage, a spiced sausage, sun-dried beef, like five or six different kinds of meat and black beans.

SUAREZ: The night of the opening ceremonies, Chef de Souza was in his own marathon with some 140 takeout orders of authentic Brazilian food. We were there Friday night as he prepped the meals.

DE SOUZA: This is the little pan of feijoada.

SUAREZ: By little he means a huge stockpot, enough to feed four or five soccer teams. He lifts the lid to show the black beans and the variety of pork bubbling for a long and slow simmer.

DE SOUZA: OK, it's almost done. It's 100, 120 orders.

SUAREZ: For those dining in, it's served in a bowl with a plate of side dishes.

DE SOUZA: We serve on the side with the feijoada with rice, white rice, collard greens, salted collard greens, yucca flower roast and wedge of orange.

SUAREZ: Chef de Souza tasted his first feijoada - where else? - at home.

DE SOUZA: I think the first feijoada was my mother's. I was a little one.

SUAREZ: He learned to cook the dish early on.

DE SOUZA: My mother, you know, she's Italian, but I learn a lot of - I start to cook with her. Seven, 8 years old, I helped her to do the polenta and everything - you know, chicken stew, black beans I start. That's why I like to cook (laughter).

SUAREZ: He's been thrilled to share Brazil's champion dish during these Olympics and its complimentary winning cocktail.

DE SOUZA: For drinks we have the special national drink. It's caipirinha. Caipirinha's made with Brazilian sugar cane, liquor - kind of a rum - fresh lime. It's a very refreshing cocktail. Oh yes, it's very refreshing, but don't drink three and drive (laughter).

SUAREZ: Feijoada, the gold medal winner of Brazilian food. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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