Travel Brazil – Bahian Cuisine

By Alexa Boyce – When I think of different types of ethnic foods, Brazilian is not one that jumps out at me as anything particularly interesting. However, Brazil has a very interesting ethnic mix of Portugese colonists, Brazilian native Indians and African slaves. It is this that gives its food such a unique flavor. The Africans by far have had the most influence on the cuisine, when they added African herbs and spices to the existing dishes. Today, cuisine from the state of Bahia in the northeast is revered as the country's best.
The Bahian food may be a bit heavy to newcomers, but it is the malagueta chile peppers and dende oil made from African palms that define this type of cuisine. The malaguetas are so important that a container of the peppers, minced in oil, is usually provided on tables in restaurants, as salt and black pepper would be in the States. Other major ingredients may also include seafood (usually shrimp), coconut milk, banana and okra. The street vendors who serve this food from thatched-roof kiosks are called baianas. Make sure you check with the locals for recommendations of the best place to sample the native dishes. Dinha, in the Larga da Santana in the Rio Vermelho, Salvador is a very highly recommended place to sample the Afro-Brazilian cuisine. Dada is a baiana whose food made her so popular that she is now a local celebrity in Salvador. She owns the Caranguejo da Dada in the favelas and the Restaurante da Dada in Pelourinho on the beach.
One of the most popular dishes is acaraje, a fried ball or patty eaten as a snack or appetizer. This patty is made of mashed black-eyed peas and is fried in dende oil to give it a bright orange color. Sometimes it comes stuffed with vatapa, which is made of cassava flour, oil, pepper, fish or meat.
Acaraje Recipe
1 kg of dried fradinho beans (black-eyed peas)
1/2 kg of onion
1 spoon of salt
1 liter of dende oil
ground dried shrimp (seasoning)
Preparation: Soak the beans overnight. Wash and rub them to remove the skins. Combine the beans and onions and grind until it becomes a light batter. Season with salt, ground dried shrimp, hot pepper and dende oil. Heat the dende oil in a saucepan until it is very hot. Plunge large spoonfuls of the mixture into the boiling oil. When the acaraje patties rise to the surface and are a crispy golden brown they should be taken out of the oil and filled with cauru (okra) sauce. Serve immediately.

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