To the uninitiated, Bahian cooking can seem a bit heavy. However, until they´ve tried it, most people agree that this unique Afro-Brazilian cuisine is delicious and satisfying, and they come back for more. Though it contains contributions from the Portuguese colonists and the Brazilian native Indians, by far the most important influence on Bahian cuisine came from the enslaved Africans, who not only brought their own style of cooking, but also modified Portuguese dishes with African herbs and spices.
Bahian cuisine is characterized by the generous use of malagueta chile peppers and dendê oil extracted from an African palm that grows well in the northeastern climate. Several Bahian dishes also contain seafood (usually shrimp), coconut milk, banana and okra.
The colorfully dressed baianas set up shop daily in thatched-roof kiosks or at improvised tables where they serve homemade sweets and acarajé, a Bahian-style hamburger. Try this typical food at a place that has been recommended to you to be sure of getting a fresh product. Dinha, in the Largo da Santana in Rio Vermelho, Salvador is a very popular and highly recommended place to try these exotic delights.
This is street food eaten before lunch or dinner as an appetizer, or at any time as a snack. It consists of a patty, made of black-eyed beans, fried in palm oil. It may or may not be left open and stuffed with ‘vatapá’ (a dish made with cassava flour, oil, pepper, fish or meat) and dry shrimp sauce.
- 1 kg of dried fradinho beans (black-eyed beans)
- 1/2 kg of onion
- 1 spoon of salt
- 1 litre of dendê oil
- ground dried shrimp to season
Method: Leave the beans to soak overnight. Rub and wash them to remove the skins. Then put them, together with the onion, in a grinder to mash them up and beat the mixture in a large bowl until it becomes a light batter. Season with salt, ground dried shrimp, hot pepper and dendê oil. Heat the dendê oil in a saucepan until it is really hot then plunge large spoonfuls of the mixture into the boiling oil. When the acarajé patties rise to the surface and are a crispy golden brown they should be taken out of the oil and eaten while still hot. Each pattie is then filled with carurú sauce.
This dish is traditionally served during the festival of Saint Cosme and Saint Damian in the month of September. It is traditional to invite 7 small boys from the street into your home to eat Caruru. During this festival it is the custom to put 7 whole okra in the caruru and whoever receives one of these on their plate must offer another caruru to the saints.
- 100 okra
- 1 cup of ground cashew nuts
- 100g of ground toasted peanuts
- 2 cups of ground smoked skinless shrimp and a few large dry whole ones
- 2 cups of dendê oil
- 2 3 limes
- 2 spoons of salt
- 4 cups of hot water
- hot pepper, ginger and garlic
Method: Wash well and finely chop the okra. Put the ground shrimp, grated onion, garlic, salt, cashews and peanuts into the hot dendê oil. Then add the chopped okra, water and lime juice and add the whole shrimp. Cook this altogether until the seeds of the okra are really pink, then remove the saucepan from the heat.
Moqueca de peixe (serves 6 people)
There are as many recipes for this marinated fish dish as there are cooks in Brazil. Named after the Indian method of barbecuing fish wrapped in banana leaves, developed in the great plantation houses of the sugar zone, the dish is now cooked on top of the stove in a pan.
- 1kg fillets of mixed, fresh white fish
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 50ml dendê oil (or olive oil)
- 1 chopped medium onion
- 2 fresh hot chilis, seeded and chopped
- 2 large peeled tomatoes, chopped
- 1 crushed clove of garlic
- a handful of fresh coriander leaves
- 3 tbsp lime juice
Method Crush the marinade ingredients to a purée in a mortar, or use a blender. Cut the fish into 5 cm pieces, mix with the purée in a non-metallic bowl and leave for 1 hour. Transfer to a saucepan. Add the coconut milk and cover and simmer until the fish is cooked (about 10 minutes). 1 minute before serving add the dendê oil and turn up the heat. Serve with hot pepper and lime sauce and rice.
Arroz de coco
- 4 cups of rice
- 8 cups of water
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- salt to season
Method Boil the rice in the water and salt and when it is almost cooked add the coconut milk, leaving it to almost dry over the heat. When it is ready put the rice into a hollow cake mould and turn it out onto a serving dish. Garnish with coriander leaves.
The women of Bahia are among the world´s great confectioners. They concoct sweets from coconut, eggs, ginger, milk, cinnamon and lemon.
Ambrosia de Coco
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 2 small dry pieces of dark brown sugar
- 4 eggs
Method Boil the coconut milk with the cloves and the sugar. When the mixture is boiling add the beaten eggs. Leave it to simmer over low heat until the mixture becomes thick and the desired consistency is achieved.
- 1 kg of dark brown sugar
- 2 coconuts (grated)
- 1 teaspoonfull of grated ginger
- 1 lime
- 1/2 cup of water
Method Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Grate the coconut, but do not squeeze out the milk. Add the coconut and the ginger to the sugar mixture. Mix together over the heat continuously until the mixture is thick and syrupy and the bottom of the pan is visible. Mix in the juice of one lemon and take the pan off the heat. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet immediately and when it has hardened a little, but is still soft, cut into squares. Wait to eat until the squares are hard and have cooled off.
- 12 egg yolks
- 450g of sugar
- 1 spoon of butter
- 1 grated coconut
- juice of 1 lemon
Method Grate the coconut. Mix the sugar, a bit of water and a few drops of lemon juice over medium heat until a thick consistency is obtained. Take off the heat and leave the sauce to cool. Strain the egg yolks through a plastic sieve. To the cooled down sauce add the strained egg yolks, the grated coconut and the butter, mixing thoroughly. Pour the liquid into small buttered ramekin dishes and place in a bain-marie. Then put into a hot oven until the mixture is set and golden.
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