Last weekend we had a friend from London to stay. This was fun, not just because our guest was nice and not only because she brought us all kinds of yummy goodies from home, but also because her presence pushed us into doing a whole bunch of sight-seeing things that we probably wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. We wandered around a favela, we went to see some samba (these guys) and spent a fair bit of time eating and drinking in Santa Teresa.
One of the places we ended up was Armazém São Thiago, a really nice old bar that dates back to 1919. The bar itself does pretty yummy food, but even better than that, on Sundays there is a lady just outside the bar cooking Acarajé.
Acarajé is a dish from the northeastern state of Bahia, and is usually sold by women from that state (Baianas) dressed in white clothes and a colourful headscarf. The northeastern states of Brazil have close ties with West Africa because of the slave trade and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that there is a very similar dish made in Ghana and Nigeria called Akara.
As delicious as acarajé is, it also sounds like a real pain to make. The main part is a fritter, a little like a falafel, made from black-eye peas that have had their skins removed in a time-consuming process of soaking and rubbing. The blended pea mixture is then dropped into dendê (palm) oil and deep-fried until golden brown.
|This is what black-eye peas look like after you soak them in water for 24 hours, remove their skins and then put them in a blender. I can think of some other Black-eyed Peas I’d like to do that to…|
After draining off the excess oil, each fritter is cut open, sandwich style, and various goodies are added. First a very spicy hot sauce, followed by vatapá (a delicious mush made with breadcrumbs, ginger, chilli, peanuts, cashew nuts, onion and tomato). Next caruru (a condiment made with okra, onion, shrimp and palm oil). Then a crunchy mix of herbs, green tomatoes and onion. And finally some salty dried shrimp are added.
|The Baiana making it look so easy…|
What you end up with looks something like the first image of this post – a delicious, spicy bundle which is literally bursting with flavour (eating can be tricky, so expect things to get messy).
|Acarajé components: dried shrimp, vatapá, hot sauce and note the bottle of dendê oil at the back (and don’t forget the blended black-eye peas). Getting all this prepared is not going to be worth it unless you have some friends coming round.|
I love cooking, but did you notice how many ingredients are involved here? If you really want to try making acarajé then there is a recipe here at Flavors of Brazil (though James himself says that it was such the hassle he probably wouldn’t do it again!). A more enjoyable alternative would be to take a trip to Salvador in Bahia where there are Baianas selling acarajé on every corner!
|She did all this so that we didn’t have to.|