Sunday, April 8, 2012

RECIPE - Skate Moqueca (Moqueca de Arraia)

One of the most popular ways to serve arraia (ray or skate in English) in Brazil comes from the northeastern state of Bahia, specifically from the Afro-Brazilian culinary traditions of Salvador, the state's capital city and Brazil's original capital.

In traditional Bahian cuisine, a thick stew made from fish or seafood in a broth of tomatoes, onions, coconut milk and the brilliant-orange palm oil known as dendê is called a moqueca. The word moqueca and the recipe both come from Africa and the tradition of cooking fish in moquecas crossed the Atlantic to Brazil in the hold of slave ships which carried Africans to slavery in the mines and sugar cane plantations of Brazil.

This recipe for moqueca de arraia (moqueca of skate or ray) comes from the SENAC cooking school in Salvador, and is a typical moqueca. There are as many recipes for moqueca as there are cooks, but the ingredients used in this recipe are found in some combination in almost every recipe.

Dendê palm oil has a distinctive color and flavor and there really is no substitute for it, although substituting 2 or 3 tablespoons of sweet paprika will give the final dish almost the same color. However one of the most important flavor components will be missing when dendê is absent. In cities that have a Brazilian immigrant community, markets that cater to Brazilians will likely have dendê in stock, and in cities with an African immigrant population you can often find dendê in African markets, labeled simply palm oil.
RECIPE - Skate Moqueca (Moqueca de Arraia)
Serves 4

2 lbs (1 kg) skate wings
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
juice of one lime
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and sliced
2/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup dendê oil
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the skate wings into large pieces. Bring lots of water to a boil in a large saucepan, then add the skate. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the fish for about 15 minutes. Drain the fish, and let cool completely. When the fish is cool, using your fingers or a fork, pull the meat away from the cartilaginous bony structure and flake it. Discard the cartilage. Season the meat with the lime juice, chopped garlic and cilantro and season with salt. Let marinade no more than 1/2 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C)

In a ceramic or glass casserole, preferably round, layer the slices of tomato and onion, alternating with layers of the reserved fish. Pour the coconut milk and dendê oil over all. Place in the preheated oven, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the tomato and onion are soft and the broth is bubbling hot.

Serve immediately accompanied by plain white rice and some sort of hot chili-pepper sauce.


  1. Wow! Thanks, I'll be making this Friday! Luckily I live in a neighborhood where I can get both dende oil and skate.

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