We love to share recipes of various Afro multicultural cuisines, to celebrate the rich and delicious variety of food and drinks from the motherland and the motherland diaspora. This week on our Afro Cuisine recipe is Acaraje, a crispy Brazilian beans cake with its origins from West Africa where it is called Akara. The snack became known as ‘Acarajé’ as a result of a humorous mistake by the Yoruba women who were shipped as enslaved people to Brazil and who used to sell the snack. These women shouted ‘acara-jé’ which means ‘I have akara’ and so the name ‘Acarajé’ caught on.
Acaraje is a street food dish brought to Brazil’s north eastern state of Bahia from the depths of Western Africa. It is traditionally fried in dende (red palm oil).
In 2004, the street snack Acarajé was declared part of Brazil’s heritage culture in the region of Bahia. It’s one of the most important symbols of the culture of Bahia and it’s enjoyed by all types of tourists. Acaraje is both a street snack and an offering to the osun goddess, an African goddess venerated in Brazil.
Ingredients for Acaraje
- 16 ounces dry black-eyed peas
- 2 onions, chopped, divided
- Salt, to taste
- 1/2 pound shrimp, plus more for serving
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 1 1/2 ounces roasted peanuts
- 2 1/2 ounces cashews
- 1 cup manioc flour, toasted
- Grated ginger, to taste
- 3 cups dendê oil (palm oil), plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 onion with peel
- In a food processor, add the peas and process until coarse. Transfer to a bowl and cover with cold water. The skins will float to the top; scoop them out and discard. Allow peas to soak for 8 hours. Drain the water.
- In the food processor, add the soaked peas and half the chopped onion. Blend until it turns into a paste.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl; season with salt and mix with a wooden spoon until the volume doubles.
- In a blender, add the shrimp, coconut milk, peanuts, cashews, remaining chopped onion, manioc flour and ginger. Blend until well combined, then transfer to a pan. Season with salt. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring so it doesn’t thicken. Add some drops of palm oil, just enough to give it color and flavor. Set aside.
- In a deep-sided pan, add palm oil. Place the half onion in the pan to gauge cooking temperature. Place spoonfuls of the shrimp mixture in the oil, and let it fry until it’s golden on both sides.
- Remove from oil and allow to cool slightly. Slice in half; stuff with pea mixture, salsa and shrimp.