Feijao Tropeiro is one dish you can’t leave Brazil without having, it is one of the most hearty and satisfying plates of food I can ever remember.
The next time you visit Belo Horizonte, don’t miss Bar Do Careca, and prepare yourself for a stunning meal of both hospitality and delicious local food.
Let me share with you the details of Feijao Tropeiro (and much more!) at Bar Do Careca Restaurant, in Minas Gerais state, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Bar Do Careca
I think of this as the kind of restaurant where you can order any dish you see, and have full confidence that every pick will be outstanding.
Although this restaurant is locally well-known, I promise that this place will serve you some of the most humble local Brazilian food you could ever hope to find.
This restaurant is located in a small neighborhood of Belo Horizonte, but the quiet atmosphere should not be underestimated!
Follow Your Nose
Pans full of frying onions, garlic, peppers, and olive oil, are preparing themselves to be parts of one food in particular that you just need to try as quickly as possible.
Even from outside the front door, the smells that hit you are wonderful. Of course, the salivating only increases when your ears hear the kitchen right after your noses senses a close proximity of delicious food.
Follow your instincts here, and let the effects of food on high heat draw you in.
What To Order
Belo Horizonte is famous even among local Brazilians as a great place to visit when you’re searching for the authentic centers of Brazilian cuisine.
Likely the three most typical things you’ll see at any table setting throughout the country though when you’re sitting down for Brazilian local food are beans of many colors, meats of all different cuts, and a steaming mound of yellow and white starches to go with them.
At Bar Do Careca, you need at least one dish containing each of these ‘staple’ ingredients.
Ok, the time for introductions is over, let’s get to the food already!
Scarlet Eggplant (Jiló)
In our opinion, there are actually not one but several dishes at this restaurant that are worth visiting Belo Horizonte just to eat. Bar Do Careca has many great examples of the foods so dearly loved by South-Central Brazilian eaters.
The first special food is a vegetable dish – Scarlet Eggplant – an absolute must in Belo Horizonte.
You may think it will be mushy like some other eggplants too, after seeing how long it cooks in the pan, but these eggplants are actually very firm. Frying simply with just olive oil, garlic, and onions (but also common with beef liver), there is just so much more flavor here than you might expect.
Scarlet Eggplant has an incredible, unique bitter flavor, not overpowering, but wonderfully complex. Its not just a side dish, definitely not a random green vegetable to sit on a table otherwise overflowing with meat.
This is a wonderful favorite food of Brazil – and here they call it ‘Jiló’ – this vegetable can be found in small quantities as a part of many Brazilian foods.
Note: Eating Scarlet Eggplant for breakfast in the BH central market is also a great food experience – check out this lovely combo meal for your breakfast options tomorrow (hint – it contains sausage, chili oil, giant pork cracklings, and strong cane alcohol – get hungry now).
Pan Cooked Beef (Bife de Panela)
The next food you just have to try here is any one of the delicious beef options.
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Usually coming with a side of steaming potatoes (or manioc, your choice), I love how the chef chooses to just cover the entire piece of meat with garlic and onions, and then a second spoon of more deep frying garlic cloves for good measure.
This one you see in the photo here is actually a small portion of beef with manioc (cassava) – you can try an entire table-size griddle of steaks if you’re really in the mood to go all out for Brazilian beef.
This is a dish that your mouth will thank you for, and when you’re in Brazil, its safe to say that any and all beef orders will always be juicy and happy decisions.
Starches Balance a Wonderfully Heavy Garlic Content
The starches are a bit heavy, and I will always remember the miniature mountains of steaming potatoes that accompany so many meals during any trip to South America.
Don’t worry if you order this food to share with several other people – Brazil is well-known for its delicious meat dishes, so no one will ever mind if you take it easy on the starches (or on the rice).
This is a tender roast meat you want to savor, and you might even just treat the plain foods that come with it as palate cleansers before you move on to the next course.
(No offense to potatoes or cassava of course, which are in fact native to South and Central America…)
Beans and Pork (Feijao Tropeiro)
Finally, the stunning display of Feijao Tropeiro arrives.
This is the masterpiece I know you’re waiting for, and honestly, this food is just mind-blowingly tasty.
It has to be one of the most hearty, most heavy, and most comforting plates of food I can ever remember eating – it is definitely a favorite during our entire trip to Brazil.
Serving it on a silver, shining, oblong platter too is a nice touch, as this dish is a mountain of a serving size.
This plate is just perfect for a meal of four people, and I think for many people even a dish to take home for leftovers (although I think we’ve never done that before).
So Much Diversity in Every Single Bite
I will always remember these bites of Feijao Tropeiro as some of the most flavor-diverse yet at the same time so wonderfully heavy bites of food I’ve had in a long, long time.
It is quite a complex blend of ingredients if you have a chance to witness its creation (scroll down to read more), but at the same time though the chefs are cooking with such expertise that the texture and flavor profile is absolutely spot-on – it is not over-whelming in any way, even though there are literally 5 different meats and at least 5 vegetables going on here (and don’t forget the deep fried eggs).
A Meal You Never Want to End
This is a plate of food so good that I was honestly sad to reach the last bite.
Pork sausage and pork fat, black beans, pork skin, olive oil, fried onions and garlic, deep fried eggs, pork chops to top it all – this is just heart-warming texture and flavor, and real Brazilian comfort food.
I recommend you visit this restaurant, even travel to Belo Horizonte, just to have your own platter of Feijao Tropeiro.
The Creation of Feijao Tropeiro
After describing each dish you need to order, I just have to take some time to describe the cooking process of Feijao Tropeiro for you as well.
If you were me though, I would want you to warn me right now – something along the lines of ‘you’d better not read this on an empty stomach,’ – because this dish is just incredible.
Watching The Aunties Work
Watching the aunties at work made this already delicious meal just an absolutely joyful experience of an evening.
The recipe is actually quite complex – but they so obviously knew it by heart – it was hard even to follow how quickly and smoothly they were throwing in ingredients.
The First (and Second) Pans
Onions and beans fry together to start, several large onions and an entire cup of brown beans.
A second pan of onions and garlic fry in olive oil to the side, and she adds these in at the end when the dish is almost ready (Yes, a second helping of garlic and onions at the end, there’s a lot of frying flavor in this dish).
The chef then chops up a huge sausage, and adds this into the first pan, along with something I’ve never seen before as a cooking ingredient – huge, thick, pork cracklings!
These cracklings are not even close to your average thin and airy crunchy skin bits either – this was basically an entire 12-oz pork chop that had been double deep-fried, broken apart, and is now being used as an ingredient. Genius. Masterful.
Queue the absolutely incredible aroma production now…
Third Pan, But Not Even Close to Done…
Next up is a combo of 4 deep fried eggs, some cilantro, and a handful of green onions. Following this with a handful of ultra-dry cassava powder (pounding dry cassava into farinha, which is much more course than flour), all of this continues into an ever-growing compilation of deliciously-smelling goodness.
She stirs all of this together, adding stock from a nearby mother pot of vegetable broth as she needs.
The huge mother pot by the way, they make earlier in the evening. It includes a massive amount of red beans, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and peppers. This is the huge pot you see above, a key ingredient to keep all of the dishes from getting too dry as they cook (and also infusing wonderful flavor, of course).
…and then the Fourth Pan!
Finally, the fourth and final pan is full of fine strips of kale. These fry for just a minute or less, still keeping their firmness and also adding a wonderful color to the final product as well.
Before putting it all on the serving tray, it was great too to see how she arranges the kale to one side, scoops out the main dish, piles it all together so fast, keeping it all on the plate so expertly.
This balancing act is great, but by this point, any saliva glands within the premises are absolutely bursting, patience is hard to come by in a moment like this.
And THEN come the Pork Chops.
The final final topping though will just blow your mind – four huge, thin, long strips of pork that she had been frying on yet another griddle, come from right next to her cooking station to top the already mountain-size Feijao Tropeiro.
Have you ever seen pork chops being used as a garnish? Its incredible.
Then… at last… she looks up, smiles, and extends her hands to show her gorgeous creation.
Which is good, because at this point hunger is quite beyond the boundaries of any normal person’s sanity.
History in Food Names
The name of this food is interesting, and carries a bit of history on its own.
Feijao Tropeiro as a name simply refers to the style in which the beans cook (everything together in one big pan), but adding an ‘s’ to make ‘Tropeiros’ reminds people of something more.
‘Tropeiros’ were the cowboys so famous in Brazil’s colonial times. Traveling long distances across interior Brazil driving cattle, carrying their own supplies throughout, of course it made the most sense for them to cook hearty, huge meals, using as few tools as possible.
Dry foods are the lightest, and things like jerky, nuts, flour, or manioc powder can easily be rehydrated, making a not-quite-soup but not-quite-fried, big and deliciously filling mix.
Just like the national dish of Brazil, ‘Fejoiada,’ these foods can be wonderfully complex in hands of a great chef (or the hands of a mother, like Senora Jura, who cooked an incredible meal for us near her restaurant in a Rio favela).
Finally, the Back Story
On a quiet, weekday evening, we were fortunate to visit Bar Do Careca, and spend some time talking with the amazing owner – a wonderful man – Mr. Orcino.
Along with his wonderful wife, this pair take care of almost all of the operations of this restaurant. The only other staff members are the pair of beautiful ladies who manage the large number of deliciously bubbling, wonderfully large pots of soup.
Taking turns greeting guests, carrying out trays of meat and beans, welcoming, smiling, and overall just celebrating their job of introducing home-cooking in South-Central Brazil – you need to make yourself a guest of this team at Bar Do Careca as soon as possible.
They Take Pride in What They Do
This entire team obviously makes the owner very proud as well. He made sure to comment to us more than once how he “teaches [them] all he knows, and that they’ve been together in this food serving business for a happy 30 years.”
Señor Orcino, we are hoping for many more years to come!
Mr. Orcino himself has been in various restaurant businesses for 60 years – 30 of them here with his wife at Bar Do Careca.
His expertise is plain to see, and if you are here in Belo Horizonte then you simply need to pay a visit to this restaurant.
Travel For Food, and Food Experiences
I think that a meal like this provides the type of experience that all those who Travel for Food are looking for. A meal where you can really appreciate finding yourself in a pair of confident, experienced, but also warm and welcoming hands – a local food experience in Brazil of more than just delicious and authentic food.
Southern Brazil is well known for its love of all things meat and barbecue, but food like this tastes even better when you really get to know the hearts behind it.
These are people worth traveling to meet, and at Bar Do Careca, people like this are serving foods that are worth traveling to eat.
Mr. Orcino is proud to share histories too, tell stories, and even join you for parts of the meal, (and in our case, even invite us in to take photos of the recipes and cooking process).
See the photo on the wall too where Anthony Bourdain is posing with Mr. Orcino – definitely a special thing for us to notice this evening.
Name: Bar do Careca
Location: Google Maps (link here)
Hours: Tues-Fri. 6pm to Midnight, Sat. 11am to Midnight, Sun. 11am to 6pm, Closed Monday
Price: R$156 for our entire meal here, 4 people including drinks (US$40)