The Afro-Brazilians played a big role to enrich the Brazilian culture and to shape it as it is today. When they arrived many centuries ago in Brazil to work in the farms, soon they started using their own cooking techniques to cook dishes of their home countries using indigenous ingredients. So the African-Brazilian style of cooking was born. Many Africans were established in the state of Bahia and that is why in Bahia is where you can see the strongest African influence of Brazil. The beautiful and rich African roots are seen all over the state in the form of folk dances, music beats and rhythms, costume clothes, religion and food. The food of Bahia is one of the most important in the culinary of Brazil and, not surprisingly, the most famous. The flavours of Bahia are out of this world and certainly have the power to enchant. Indeed, Bahia’s food is quite addictive. I went to Salvador – Bahia’s capital city many years ago and stayed in a little boutique hotel where they served an exquisite breakfast that included exotic fruits, home-made breads and moist cakes that are simply unforgettable. Not to mention the spectacular street food and beach restaurants (on the sand!) that serve mouth-watering seafood dishes and fresh salads that are to die for. But that is another story, I could write 1000 pages on delicious food experiences you can have in Bahia!
Bobó is an African-Brazilian dish that is exotic, creamy, hearty, delicious and full of calories! But the good thing is that it is easy to make and all the ingredients are easily found in Australia (check your South American grocer or online if you are from another country). There are many variations to this dish, but my favourite is the Prawn Bobó. Other recipes can include different types of shellfish such as crab or mussels. You have the option to add little or lots of chillies like my version below. It can be served warm or cold, with steamed rice on the side. Start to enjoy what Bahia has to offer! In Australia, frozen cassava is available from large Asian grocers. Dendê (palm) oil is available online or from selected gourmet shops.
½ kg frozen cassava*, cooked until soft as per pack instructions
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup dende (palm) oil**
Prawn and Tomato Sauce
Juice of 1 lime
½ kg medium prawns, peeled and deveined
½ kg large king prawns to garnish, peeled (with tails intact) and deveined
3 tbs peanut oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 red chillies, finely chopped
5 tomatoes, deseeded and skinless
1 bunch coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Steamed rice, to serve
50 g Thai dried shrimp*
Coriander extra, chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, fan-forced. Toast the dried shrimp in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they change colour. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool. Process in the food processor to crumbs and pass them through a fine sieve to obtain a powder.
Remove the hard core of cassava and blend it in a blender or food processor with 150ml of water and process slowly to a thick creamy consistency. Transfer the mash back to the saucepan; stir in the coconut milk and dende oil, heat over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring continuously. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the sauce warm.
Pour the lime juice over the prawns and reserve.
In a casserole-style pan, heat the peanut oil and sauté the onion, stirring until soft. Add the garlic, chilli, tomatoes and fry, stirring, for 10 minutes. Add the large prawns and cook, stirring for 2 minutes then add the medium prawns and cook for further 3 minutes or until all prawns are cooked through. Stir in coriander and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the cassava mixture onto a baking tray or dish then pour the prawn sauce to cover it. Sprinkle over with prawn powder and serve immediately with extra coriander and steamed rice.
*Frozen cassava and Thai dried shrimp are available from Asian grocers
**Dendê (palm) oil is available online