My search for Brazil's best street food has brought me to it's first ever capital: Salvador de Bahia!
Salvador de Bahia is a city steeped in history and known as one the most spiritual places in Brazil being home to 365 Catholic churches, one for each day of the year. It's also one of the most significant locations for Candomble, a polytheistic religion. Candomble came to Brazil with the arrival of African slaves, and it's a popular religion in Salvador. Specific street foods go hand in hand with the faith as believers think it establishes a connection with the Candomble Gods, known as Orishas. This is so interesting and never thought I would find a religion linked to street food culture. William, my guide in Salvador took me to try acaraje, which is thought to be the oldest street food in Brazil from Claudia. Claudia is famous in these parts, the stall has been in her family for nearly 60 years and the square where she works from has been informally named after her grandmother, Dinha!
So, what is acaraje? It is a bean fritter made of black-eyed peas fried in palm oil then filled with vatapa, a spicy paste made from shrimp, ground cashews, palm oil and a few other ingredients. It's then served with a salad called caruru, made out of green and red tomatoes, fried shrimps and homemade hot pepper sauce.
William says that they are so popular that the whole of Salvador smells like palm oil because of it.
Ararajes are a street snack so steeped in tradition, and I will stick with that principle for the fritter but giving the filling my very own fresh, modern twist.
FOR THE CEVICHE:
- 250g raw tiger prawns, deveined
- 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 large mango, peeled, stoned and finely diced
- 1 to 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 ripe tomato, deseeded and finely chopped
- Small bunch coriander, finely chopped
- Sea salt and black pepper
FOR THE FRITTERS:
- 2 tablespoons dried prawn
- 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 x 400g cans black-eyed beans, drained
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 3 to 4 tablespoons plain flour
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
FOR THE GARNISH:
- Hot pepper sauce
- Lime wedges
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the prawns and blanch for 1 minute. Drain the prawns, roughly chop and combine with the remaining ingredients to make your ceviche. Season to taste and refrigerate until needed. Cover the dried shrimp in boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes until softened. Drain, then blitz in a food processor with the onion, garlic and chilli until finely chopped. Add the beans, blitz until smooth and season to taste.
Tip into a bowl and gradually add flour until the mixture forms a stiff dough. Dip two spoons in a little oil and shape the mixture into 10 to 12 rough oval shapes. Heat the oil for deep frying to 160°C and fry in batches for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and season with sea salt whilst still warm. Split the fritters open, stuff with the ceviche and serve with hot pepper sauce, lime wedges a cold beer.