As a dedicated reader I’m sure you’ve been wondering, “where the hell did Sam go?!” Well, here’s the deal. First, I had a birthday, and on that birthday I got engaged(!!!), and then there was Thanksgiving, and the very next day I was off to Brazil for a little pre-wedding craziness vacation. Now I’m back in weirdly warm, but dreary Philadelphia and it’s almost Christmas! Man how time flies. So desculpe for the delay… the good news is I come bearing gifts, of the culinary persuasion.
To begin with… TAPIOCA! Before our trip down south I had zero idea that tapioca was anything other than the little balls that go in my boba tea. Turns out tapioca comes from the cassava plant, and is used rather frequently in Brazilian, and especially Bahian cuisine. In Brazil, they have tons of different kinds of tapioca, ranging from sour to sweet.
So what do they do with delicious and versatile ingredient? Everything! Our two favorites were a tasty little morsel called Pao De Queijo, basically the national food of Brazil, and the simply named Tapioca- a staple of Bahian cuisine that has become quiet trendy all over the country.
Pao De Queijo, which translates as “bread of cheese” and is similar in size and texture to the French gougères was our go-to snack as we traveled around the country. All the airports have a stop for the yummy bread, and the better restaurants bring them to you in a bread basket for the table, which you most likely will promptly destroy.
I couldn’t wait to come home and try out a recipe for Pao De Queijo. The first one I tried though did not turn out exactly as planned. Perhaps it was the fact that I substituted Gluten-Free flour for traditional flour in the recipe? I’m not sure, but in reality an authentic Pao De Queijo wouldn’t contain flour anyway so I’m on the lookout for another recipe. That said, these little guys still tasted the part, and I would definitely continue to make this recipe, even though their appearance was a bit lacking.
Another delicious tapioca treat was the simple to remember, “Tapioca.” Ask for tapioca in any beach town in the Bahia region of Brazil, and increasingly in most of the cities, and you will get a crepe like creation filled with whatever sweet or savory ingredients your heart desires.
We found that tapioca was especially popular for breakfast, in place of an omelette, and I loved this because it was gluten-free alternative to the eggs I tend to eat most mornings at home. My favorite fillings were banana and dolce de leche, and cheese with tomato and arugula. Of course, I had to try this recipe out too upon returning home. I got very used to eating it over there and wanted to be able to reproduce the seemingly simple crepe. This recipe IS pretty simple, but getting the technique down takes a little bit of work. Be prepared to have very fine, white flour all over your kitchen (and likely in your hair and down your shirt) the first few times.
Ok, enough about my Tapioca obsession. You must be wondering what else we ate? Of course, we found some incredible restaurants which I will post about shortly, but let me first tell you about another Bahian tradition, Moqueca. Moqueca is a simple fish stew, made with coconut milk and tomatoes, cooked in a terra cotta casserole and served bubbling hot.
While staying at the most lovely hotel (more to come on that later also) in the small fishing/surfing village of Itacare- Bahia, we came across a true gem of a chef. Fernando Luz, who really knows how to make a mean Moqueca amongst other things.
Chef Fernando was kind enough to give me a copy of his secret recipe for Moqueca to share with my readers. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo for you because we devoured it so quickly, on a pretty dark night, and I have yet to make it at home, but I can assure you it was incredible…and here’s a stock photo to get your mouth watering.
Chef Fernando’s Moqueca (Fish Stew)
*some translation was required to bring you this recipe including translating quantities from the metric system
2.2 lbs fish filet- traditionally a meatier fish like a red snapper is used, but you can use any fish of your choosing
2 chopped tomatoes, cubed
1 onion, cubed
4 cloves minced garlic, chopped
3/4-1 cup, chopped parsley
1 1/5 tablespoons, ground coriander
2 cups, coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons, olive oil
1 tablespoon, palm oil
2 teaspoons, salt
1/2 teaspoon, white pepper
2 limes, juiced (Disclosure: In Brazil they call limes, lemons. So my original recipe says lemons, but I am going on the assumption that he means limes)
1 lime, cut for garnish
Ideally use a terra cotta casserole, or a dutch oven. Combine olive oil and palm oil in the pan. Heat on medium-high heat and add garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Cook down for a few minutes, regulating the heat so you do not burn the onions.
Add the fish and the remaining ingredients. Mix well, and nestle the fish towards the bottom of the pan. Cook over low heat for 25 minutes and serve with lime wedges.
More on Brazilian design, Brazilian beaches, and Brazilian restaurants to come…