this post on Flavors of Brazil, there are really two distinct versions of the Bahian classic preparation vatapá - there is the consistent, creamy paste that is used as a filling for acarajé, a fritter made from ground black-eyed-peas, and there is a more substantial and less consistent side dish for buffets and feasts.
Although the list of ingredients for the two recipes is similar, one distinguishing difference between the two style of vatapá is the way in which wheat is introduced into the dish. In vatapá for acarajé some type of wheat flour is normally used, while in the side-dish version, it's more common to use day-old or dried bread. In either case, it is this wheat which gives the dish its consistency, which should be firmer, yet creamy, in vatapá for acarajé and a bit more saucy in the side-dish version.
The following recipe, for the side-dish version makes a perfect, and typical, addition to a Bahian buffet table, or any type of celebratory feast. In Fortaleza, my Brazilian hometown, for example, vatapá is commonly served along with turkey at Christmas dinner. I've also been served the dish at birthday buffets and at weekend barbeques. It's substantial and filling, and with its coconut milk, dried shrimps and dendê oil adds a completely Brazilian touch to any table.
RECIPE - Vatapá (Version 1 - as a side-dish)
1 lb (450 gr) day-old French or Italian white bread
1 cup canned or homemade coconut milk
1 cup dendê oil*
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup good-quality large dried shrimp, whole**
1/4 cup ground cashew nuts
1/4 cup ground peanuts
1/2 cup good quality small dried shrimp, ground**
salt to taste
1/4 lb (100 gr) cooked and shredded salt cod (bacalhau)
3 cups fish stock
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
* dendê oil can be purchased at most African or Brazilian markets
** dried shrimp can be purchased at most Asian, African or Latin American markets
Tear the bread into coarse shreds in a large mixing bowl, pour over the coconut milk, then let stand until the bread is soft. Blend in a blender or food processor. Reserve.
In a large heavy saucepan heat the dendê oil, add the onions and whole shrimp and cook until the onions are transparent but not browned. Add the ground cashews and peanuts, the ground shrimp, then stir to mix in completely. Salt to taste. Add in the bread-coconut mixture, stirring in completely, the salt cod, then the fish stock. Reduce the heat to low, continue to cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the grated ginger, pour into a large serving dish and serve.
Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brazileira by Abril Editora