Friday, December 2, 2011

RECIPE - Palm-Heart Moqueca (Moqueca de Palmito)

We mentioned in our last post that an authoritative Brazilian dictionary tells us that a moqueca can be made from fish, seafood, meat or eggs, plus other ingredients. In traditional Brazilian cooking that's probably true, but in today's culinary environment in Brazil traditional cooking styles and ancient dishes are being reinvented on a daily basis.

Although Brazilians are generally a carnivorous bunch, there are an increasing number of vegetarians in this country, and inventive chefs and clever restaurant managers are beginning to cater to them. When adapting traditional dishes like moquecas the trick is to find a central or identifying ingredient to substitute for the fish or meat that is found in the traditional dish. One excellent substitution for these animal proteins is palm hearts (aka hearts-of-palm). They have the advantage of still being distinctly Brazilian and their solid consistency gives them the substantiality and consistency of the missing meat or fish. This recipe comes from a Brazilian website of Seventh-Day Adventist recipes.

In Brazil, as elsewhere, most palm hearts are preserved in a light brine solution and canned or bottled. This recipe calls for these palm hearts - you do not have to search out fresh ones. The cans or jars can easily be found in most North American and European supermarkets, or certainly in gourmet grocery stores.
RECIPE - Palm-Heart Moqueca (Moqueca de Palmito)
Serves 4

1 lb (500 gr) drained palm hearts
2 medium onions
2 cups (500 ml) coconut milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) dendê oil
1 small green bell pepper
1 small red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and small stems only, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded
Cut the palm hearts into thick slices, about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Slice the onions, the bell peppers and the peeled tomatoes.

In a saucepan or large frying pan layer alternatively the palm hearts, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Drizzle a bit of dendê oil over each layer as you work. Sprinkle the top layer with salt, the chopped garlic and the chopped cilantro. Pour the coconut milk evenly over all.

Put the pan on a large stove-top heating element and gently bring it to a simmer. Do not let it boil vigorously. Cook until all the vegetables are softened and the sauce has thickened slightly.


  1. Thanks so much for all your endeavours making typical Brazilian recipes veggie-friendly; as an expat Brit in Fortaleza I really appreciate it, especially while dende oil is easier to get hold of than a mushroom...

    You should open a restaurant! I would definitely come.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Nicola. I hope you've discovered the recipe for plantain moqueca that I published just a few days ago - and it doesn't have dende! (By the way, what is that whole thing about no mushrooms here in Fortaleza? I can't understand why they're unobtainable. Weird...)

  3. Oh, I hadn't seen the plantain moqueca; I'll definitely look that one up now. I don't think I've noticed plantain in the stores here but I'm sure you're more clued up than me.

    Also, I really, really don't understand the lack of mushroom thing either - it's been driving me insane!

    1. i had plantain moqueca in a place called Las-iguanas in the UK last night and im trying to make it, i have plantains just need the recipe, it was gorgeous.

  4. I've seen plantains (banana-da-terra) at Mercado Sao Sebastiao and also at the Mercadinho Japones on Antonio Sales - the best greengrocers in Fortaleza. Well worth checking out no matter where you live in the city.

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