Vatapa Is a typical dish from the state of Bahia on the northeastern coast of Brazil. The Portuguese claimed the rights to the territory that makes up modern-day Brazil in 1500 and by 1532, they began bringing African slaves to Brazil.
The Africans introduced the Brazilians to new cooking styles and tastes, such as cooking food in dendê (palm oil), using okra as both a thickener and a vegetable, adding groundnuts, and using the banana in different dishes. The Africans also introduced a wide variety of chili peppers and ginger to spice up dishes. Another cooking technique Africans introduced to Brazil was the use of dried smoked fish and dried shrimp.
Although Afro-Brazilian cuisine can be seen all over Brazil, it is a major part of the cuisine in Bahia, where the people have kept the culture, food, and Candomblé religion (mix of Roman Catholic and African religions) alive for centuries.
The Afro-Brazilian cuisine features ingredients and techniques from West Africa merged with local ingredients like fresh seafood, coconut milk, black beans, and banana. Vatapá reflects this merger completely and is exceptionally popular in the Brazilian state of Bahia.
Bahian Vatapa with Shrimp – Creamy Nut Puree with Shrimp
- Food Processor or blender
- 4-quart saucepan
- 1 lb Medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cloves Garlic, crushed
- 3 large Scallions, sliced
- 2 medium Red chile pepper, chopped
- 1 inch Ginger root, peeled and sliced
- 1 small Onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup Unsalted peanuts, toasted
- ½ cup Unsalted cashews, toasted
- 14 oz Can Coconut milk
- 24 oz Canned peeled tomato, crushed by hand
- 6 slices White country bread
- ½ cup Tiny Asian dried shrimp
- 3 cups Fish stock
- ½ cup Dende palm oil (or vegetable)
- ⅛ tsp Ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Make Pastes – Puree dried shrimp, nuts, scallions, chilis, garlic, and ginger in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a separate bowl. Combine bread and coconut milk in same processor. Let sit for 20 minutes and then puree.
- Cook Vatapa – Heat oil in 4-qt saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp paste for another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook another 5-6 minutes. Boil bread paste, and stock. Reduce heat to medium and reduce by 25%, about 30 minutes. Add shrimp and cook another 3-4 minutes until shrimp are just turning pink. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or they will become mealy. Season to taste and serve with white rice.