Acarajé are stuffed black-eyed pea fritters, which derive their origin from the West African akara, common in parts of Nigeria and Ghana. You'll find this dish in the form of street food throughout the northeast region of Brazil, but especially in the state of Bahia, where West African slaves managed to maintain many of their rich culinary and cultural traditions in spite of a harsh new reality and unfamiliar environment. In their most authentic (and romantic) form, they are prepared by women in beautiful billowy white gowns and headscarves, peppered throughout the plazas of Bahia's largest city, Salvador. They sit in front of large, smoking vessels of azeite-de-dendê (red palm oil), skillfully shaping the to-be fritters between spoon and hand, then frying and stuffing them as eager patrons salivate with anticipation.
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon salt
1 gallon red palm oil (for frying)
Soak black-eyed peas overnight, then drain. Combine all ingredients then emulsify until the mixture becomes homogeneous, the thickness of a soft cookie dough. Form into 3-4 inch football shaped pieces and fry in palm oil until the outside becomes dark brown.
1/2 cup peanuts, ground
1/2 cup cashews, ground
2 medium onions, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 can coconut milk
2 cups white bread, cubed
1 cup dried shrimp, ground
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin organic red palm oil
Salt to taste
Combine bread and coconut milk, set aside. Sauté onions and peppers and tomatoes in a cast iron pan until tomatoes cook apart. Now add the remainder of ingredients and cook on medium for 30-40 minutes, or until the mixture becomes somewhat paste-like.
Vinaigrette (salsa fresca topping)
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh 36/40 Gulf shrimp, pealed, deveined and boiled. In the original Brazilian recipe one would use medium reconstituted dried shrimp for topping.
Now it's time to put it all together. Split the fritters lengthwise, nearly all the way through. Stuff with a tablespoon or so of vatapá, top with a teaspoon of vinaigrette and a few shrimp. Eat with hot sauce (a vinegar-based brand like Crystal or Trappey's is similar to Brazilian brands)
Red palm oil can be purchased at some international markets in the area. If you'd like to try use the larger dried shrimp for topping, those can be found at the Vietnamese farmers market in New Orleans East.
Thanks for contributing this recipe to Dana Honn of Carmo, 527 Julia Street, New Orleans.
(504) 875-4132 | carmocafe.com
Carmo takes great pride in paying special attention to the dietary needs of our vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free friends.