Friday, March 4, 2011

No Mercado Modelo, Tem Acarajé!

So what is this acarajé that we're singing about?  It is a very popular dish in Bahia made from black eyed peas in which we can see the deep African connections present in Bahian culture and  cuisine, in particular to a Nigerian bean cake called Akara. 

In Nigeria Akara are sold at road side stands, and the sellers call out "Akara je!", meaning "Come and eat Akara!" in Yoruba.  Overtime, these two words were likely merged into one, and Acarajé was born. Acarajé can be hard to find outside Bahia, but if you feel adventurous in the kitchen, you can bring flavor of Bahia to your home. Give it a try!

Here's a recipe from Cozihna 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, hot pepper sauce, fried dried shrimps, and finely chopped green tomatoes. 

I've seen another recipe that calls for adding dried shrimps to the dough before frying. Enjoy!

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