Camaroes a Baiana isa deliciously spicy but creamy dish from the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. It’s signature ingredient is palm oil, called dendê in Brazil (pronounced: den-DAY). While you can substitute an oil like annatto to attain the same vivid red-orange color, the flavor of dendê is indispensable to the dish, even when using such a small amount.
RECIPE: Camaroes a Baiana (Baiana Prawns)
Ingredients (per person)
-10-12 medium-sized prawns (100-120g – but they’re so tasty you can never have too many)
-2 dessert spoons vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil as its flavor clashes with the dende).
-1 teaspoon chopped onion
-1 teaspoon fresh coriander/cilantro, finely chopped
-½ cup fresh tomato sauce
-150ml coconut milk
-½ teaspoon salt or chicken stock
-dash of dende (African palm oil)
-Malagueta chile (handle with care! Also known as piri-piri)
-two teaspoons green sweet capsicum pepper, chopped very finely (optional)
1.) Cook the onion in a saucepan under a low heat until translucent. Put the prawns in and cook quickly for a couple of minutes, just until they soften.
2.) Add the salt or chicken stock, coriander/cilantro, tomato sauce and coconut milk, stirring it until it comes to the boil.
3.) Add the dende oil and chiles – quantity variable according to your preference; some people don’t include any dende at all. Likewise you can vary the amount of tomato and coconut oil, depending on whether you prefer the sauce to be a more reddish or paler color.
4.) Finally, add the green pepper; it adds a lovely crispness to the sauce.
5.) Serve with rice and yellow farofa (toasted manioc flour), cooked with dende oil.
*Note: It’s very important not to overcook prawns. They will get an unpleasant rubbery consistency, which cannot be undone. You could also use cod instead of prawns, as an original and delicious alternative.
Góes learned from her grandmother about using chicken stock for cooking fish and prawns; either making her own stock, or using shop-bought cubes. It helps thicken the sauce and adds flavor.
Huw Hennessy, a UK travel writer and journalist, lives in the green countryside of Devon, southwest England. The lure of Latin America has led him astray for 25 years or so, with a particular soft spot for the wildlife and the people. Check out his new book, a guide to Rio de Janeiro, published by the AA (Automobile Association)