Saturday, January 9, 2010

RECIPE - Acarajé

One of the most iconic foods of traditional Brazilian cuisine, and undoubtedly the dish most identified with the African-influenced cuisine of the Brazilian state of Bahia, this humble fritter made from black-eyed pea flour, sold on street corners and in squares as a snack, has enormous appeal to the Brazilian palate, and is the object of much nostalgia for Brazilians and for tourists who have come to know acarajé but who are now far away from the streets of Salvador, Brazil.

Available locally in Salvador and elsewhere in Brazil for a few reais (about $3.00-$4.00) acarajé is unfortunately not easy to duplicate in a home kitchen. The problems involve both the difficulty in finding necessary ingredients (e.g. dendê oil) in locations far from Brazil and in the actual prodution of the acarajé which can be extremely time-consuming and tedious. I have successfully made acarajé at home, when I lived in Vancouver, Canada, but I probably would not attempt it again. It's definitely a challenge.

However, for those readers of Flavors of Brazil who feel up to challenge, those who are dying of saudade for the aroma and flavor of acarajé, or for those who are merely curious about how it's done, here is a recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brazileira, by Abril Editora.
RECIPE - Acarajé

1 kg. of dried black-eyed peas
2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. salt
1 litre dendê oil (for frying)

In a very large bowl, cover the peas with water and let soak for at least 24 hours to soften the peas and to facilitate the removal of their skins.
Drain water, re-fill the basin several times, stirring the peas to remove as many skins as possible. Rubbing  handfuls of beans vigorously between the hands assists in this process. After several changes of water, drain, and individually remove the skins from any peas that still have them. (Allow plenty of time for this.)

In batches, blend the skinless peas, the onion, the garlic and the salt in a blender or food processor until you have a light batter. Pour the batter into a large, dry bowl, and beat with a wooden spoon, lifting the mass from bottom to top until you have a airy mass that has doubled in volume.

Heat the oil in a large pan, or deep-fryer. Meanwhile, soak two very large wooden spoons in water, then use them to form fist-sized balls of batter. Drop them one by one into the hot oil to fry until they are bright orange and crispy, turning them over halfway through the frying process.

Remove from the oil, and let cool for a few minutes. Serve the acarajé with vatapá (recipe soon in this blog), hot pepper sauce, fried dried shrimps, and finely chopped green tomatoes.

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