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    1. Homemade Brazilian foods you may not know

      With my sister arriving from another continent along with my nephew/godson and brother-in-law, and my mother also coming from abroad to stay with us, I had the first reunion from this side of the...

      With my sister arriving from another continent along with my nephew/godson and brother-in-law, and my mother also coming from abroad to stay with us, I had the first reunion from this side of the family in more than 2 years. It was awesome for obvious reasons, and one of them was the fact that women in my family usually love food and cook very well. I'm not a bad cook myself, but they're tough competition.

      So I had the idea to take a few pictures and share them with Tildes, along with some commentary.

      Theses dishes are typical of our region of Bahia, Brazil. They may have versions in other states, usually with significant differences.

      All foods are savory.

      With one exception, all photos were taken in my kitchen.

      1. Shrimp Stew

      Just shrimp with some spices and farofa de mandioca[1]. The quality and freshness of the shrimp are one of the most important factors, and living in front of the ocean certainly helps.


      2. Lambreta

      A kind of clam that's only available in Bahia (or at least mainly appreciated here). Like many things from our coast, it's naturally tasty and doesn't require much preparation. Salt, onions, tomatoes and lemon juice are more than enough. They're quick to cook — lambretas are ready when they naturally open.

      Image: Lambretas on the plate (source).

      3. Mangrove Crab

      Our crabs are very different from what most people are used to eat elsewhere. They do not come from the sea, but from manguezais[2] (mangrove vegetation), an ecosystem that grows in brackish water (salt-water and fresh-water mixed together).

      These crabs are smaller and carry less meat, but are way more succulent, with a unique taste that is hard to explain and easy to love. We use a variety of ingredients and spices to enhance their flavor, but it's overall a simple preparation, mainly consisting of water, salt, onions, and cilantro.

      Many people, including my mother, used to cook them alive for a better taste. I convinced her to stop doing that and they're still delicious.

      Image: crabs cooking in the pot.

      4. Abará

      This one is neither simple nor easy.

      First there's a dough made of mashed black-eyed peas. When fried on palm oil, it becomes the acarajé. When you add palm oil to the dough and cook it in banana tree leaves, it is called abará. They're both highly sought treats across the country, and I happen to live in the most African city of Brazil, which has the best acarajés and abarás in the country :). It's really hard to digest, though, and it's not rare for tourists to feel sick after the first time they eat those. But they always come back for more! Acarajé and abará are actually "comida de santo" ("holy foods"), meaning they have ceremonial significance in the African-Brazilian religion called Canbomblé.

      It's usually eaten with vatapá, an Afro-Brazilian dish made from bread (my mother uses black-eyed-beans for that), shrimp, coconut milk, finely ground peanuts and palm oil mashed into a creamy paste.

      Abará is a popular street food in our region of Brazil, sold mostly by women from humble origins. Along with acarajé, it's a point of contention with neo-charismatic "baianas de acarajé" who sell the same product using the name calling them "Jesus cakes". They do so because, for them, religions of African origin are literally "the Devil".


      Image: the ingredients together (minus the black-eyed peas).


      The vatapá must be constantly stirred. It is quite thick, so that's a labor-intensive job. Everyone must help.

      Image: stirring the vatapá.

      Images of the end result:


      [1] A gift from our Native heritage, it's the toasted version of "farinha de mandioca", a kind of rough flour that enhances the flavor and texture of the dish.

      [2] The equivalent page on Wikipedia only address the mangrove trees, and doesn't really convey that manguezais are unique ecosystems in which includes those trees.

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