• The signature dish at Bruna Batista's .signature dish at her Waterloo eatery. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A big pot of feijoada – black bean stew – is available from lunch until it's all sold out.
Aimee Chanthadavong

17 Jul 2020 - 1:55 PM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2020 - 3:17 PM

Before Bruna Batista relocated from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Australia four years ago, she frequently spent her weekends at family gatherings cooking large pots of food. 

"My grandma has 12 kids – and so my family gatherings were always crazy with lots of screaming – and I got used to cooking big portions of everything, and afterwards we'd all sit around a big table with everybody sharing the food," she tells SBS Food.

One of those dishes that was often on rotation was Brazil's national dish: feijoada. It's a slow-cooked stew of black beans and different cuts of pork and beef. In Batista's version – a recipe she's perfected over the years through trial and error –  there's a combination of smoked meats, including chorizo, pork ribs, bacon and beef.

Bruna Batista hopes people can learn more about Brazilian food at her cafe

"It's a typical dish people would eat in Brazil for lunch maybe once a week because it's quite heavy and takes a while to cook," Batista explains.

And now, it's the signature dish at her eatery, Rio Cafe in the Sydney inner-city suburb of Waterloo. Available only on Sundays, the feijoada is served alongside rice, stir-fried kale, farofa (toasted cassava flour), a salsa vinaigrette, and – to help with digestion – slices of orange.

"Feijoada is a typical dish people would eat in Brazil for lunch maybe once a week."

There are also lunch specials on Saturdays. One week it could be bobó de camarão, a prawn stew that hails from the region of Bahia, which is where Batista's family is from, or a beef or chicken stroganoff, which unlike the Russian version uses tomato sauce as part of the recipe.

It's dishes like these that have attracted the large lunchtime crowds – a majority of whom are Brazilian expats – to the cafe.

"Everything I use to cook at home, I have adapted for the menu," she says. "I want people to eat and feel like they're at home. I want people to remember the food their grandma or mum use to cook for them."

Batista explains how hearty meals for lunch are typical for Brazilians. "We eat mainly finger food during the day and we only have one big meal at lunch. So usually everywhere you go in Brazil during lunch it's always super busy and you'll see big plates with large portions, which is what we provide here," she says.

It's typical for Brazilians to eat finger food during teh day.

Aside from these home-style dishes, which are available until sold out, there are other Brazilian specialities on the menu, such as what Batista describes is a "typical Brazilian big breakfast" with glutinous cheese bread, slices of ham, cheese, and mortadella, scrambled eggs, mini dinner rolls and a fruit salad, plus a choice of pingado (espresso with a splash of milk), orange juice or a can of Guarana Antarctica.

There are also dishes based on recipes that have been passed down from Batista's grandma, such as pastels (deep-fried gyoza-like pastries), coxinha (chicken croquettes), and Brazilian pies known as empanada. Batista describes them as "finger food" or typical fast-food dishes that are synonymous with Brazil and her grandma's specialty when she was a chef.

"Before I opened [the cafe] I told her, 'Grandma, you need to teach me how to cook them'. She spent a whole day teaching me and I remember it being such a fun day," Batista says.

While the cafe keeps her busy enough, Batista is planning to launch a wholesale arm. "I want to be able to cook feijoada and all the different snacks, and share it so we can educate more people about what is Brazilian food," she says.

Rio Cafe
27A McEvoy Street, Waterloo
0450 088 160
Tue to Sun 8am-3pm

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