Bahian cuisine has the influence of Portuguese, African and Indian cultures with a predominance of local exotic ingredients. Is characterized by the generous use of malagueta chili peppers and dende oil extracted from an African palm tree. Several Bahian dishes also contain seafood (usually shrimps), coconut milk, banana and okra.
When you are in Salvador (or anywhere in Bahia) don't forget to taste some typical dishes. You won't regret - they are simply delicious!!
Acarajé - dish, made with beans, seasoned with salt and onion, fried in dendê (palm) oil and served with pepper sauce, dried shrimps, vatapa, tomato and green pepper
Abará - dish, made with beans, pepper and dendê (palm) oil, rolled in banana leaves
Moqueca de camarão (shrimps) or moqueca de peixe (fish) is a traditional Bahian seafood stew. It basically consists of shrimps or fish, onion, garlic, tomatoes, coriander, pimenta malagueta (chili pepper) and additional ingredients. It is usually accompanied by farinha, rice and farofa.
Bobo de camarão is a typical Bahian dish made with shrimps, cassava (manioc), dendê (palm) oil and coconut milk.
Vatapa is one of the most traditional dishes of Bahia made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, dendê (palm) oil and nuts (peanuts and/or cashews). It's somewhere between a sauce and a paste and it's used to accompany dishes such as acaraje.
Caruru - dish, made with okra, fish, shrimps, peanuts, cashew nuts and seasoned with oil and peppers
Moqueca is a traditional Brazilian seafood stew. It basically consists of fish, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, chilli pepper and additional ingredients depending on the region. It is cooked slowly, with no water added. In Salvador many restaurants serve the regional variation, Moqueca Baiana. This is, unsurprisingly, strongly influenced by African cuisine. In addition to the basic ingredients listed above, palm oil (dendê) and coconut milk are added.
It is normal for this to be served in two-person portions. I was keen to try it, whereas Chris (not fond of fish) was not, but we found a restaurant in Pelorinho where one of the choices was an octopus Moqueca Baiana. This Chris agreed to try, and although it wasn’t his favourite meal of the holiday, it made a tasty lunch washed down with a local beer, and we both enjoyed the friendly atmosphere in the family-run restaurant.
Cocada is a popular dessert or a small sweet made with coconut. There are a lot of ways of preparing this delicious dessert. Essential ingredients are grated coconut, sugar and water but sometimes condensed milk and lime can be added as well.
1/2 kg of (brown) sugar
1/2 kg of grated coconut
1 cup of water
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Then add the coconut to the sugar mixture. Mix together over the heat continuously until the mixture is thick and syrupy and the bottom of the pan is visable. Mix in the lime juice and take the pan off the heat. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet immediately and when it has hardened a little, but is still soft, cut into squares. Wait to eat until the squares are hard and cooled off.
This is the basic recipe though condensed milk, cinnamon and even fruit or nuts can be added. My favourite is cocada queimada, which is made from brown sugar with the addition of cinnamon and cloves. Ahhh, yummy!!!
You can get delicious home-made cocada from baianas on the street and sometimes local people sell it on the beach as well.
This yummy pulp from the Acai plant is often served with banana or granola for breakfast, or an anytime snack. Acai is akin to the noni plant in comparing antioxidants. It provides 10-30 times the antioxidant power of red wine, more than bluberries (!!!) and has omega 3 acids! It's a Brasilian superfood!
Bahian food is some of the best in Brazil. Spicey and heavy, it will require a strong stomach and plenty of beer to wash down.
The typical ingredients are mix between African and Brazilian and include coconut oil, hot peppers and shrimp. Try the Macueca, which is a fish stew served in simmering clay pot.
I really enjoyed the food in Bahia. Not that I've been to too many places in Brazil, but of the three states I did visit, I liked the food here best. The African influence here is unmistakable and the result is a spicier, more flavorful cuisine.
If you're going to buy food from a street vendor please don't haggle especially if it's a child. A one or two Real difference isn't much for an American or European tourist, but it's a big difference for someone who walks the streets every day trying to sell peanuts.