If there’s one thing you absolutely can’t miss when you Travel for Food in Salvador, it is this food right here – the name is ‘Acarajé.’
Acarajé is so well-loved in Salvador, and such an incredible street food, in my opinion its a snack worth visiting just to eat it!
Let me share with you all the details of acarajé – a food you absolutely have to have when you are in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, Brazil.
ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO HAVE ACARAJÉ IS IN SALVADOR, IN BAHIA, BRAZIL
In my opinion, this beautiful food will undoubtedly make the list of ‘Love at First Bite’ for any eater, anywhere, ever.
Acarajé is a food that comes directly from West African food traditions, and yet is so totally and completely loved by the locals of Salvador, Brazil.
At first glance it is beautiful as well, looking something like a deep-fried rainbow of Amazon jungle goodness wrapping around a heart of African-style starchy and hearty filling.
The local recipe for Acarajé blends simple and filling ingredients common in West-Central African food, with the vibrant flavors and local ingredients found here in Eastern Brazil.
And it is definitely one of the most delicious street snacks I’ve ever had in my entire life.
‘LOVE AT FIRST BITE’ FOR ANY EATER, ANYWHERE, EVER.
Carts selling acarajé are almost like mini-buffets in Salvador, where all the options are laid out in front of you.
Acarajé is a very easy food to order, and its both wonderfully fun and so wonderfully messy to eat.
The Strategy is… No Strategy
Different people have different strategies, but I find that nothing feels better than just going in face first.
The child in you will rejoice because not only is it acceptable to fill this ‘sandwich’ far beyond capacity, its pretty much expected that ingredients will be delightfully overflowing by the time you start to eat.
Pick whatever looks good, but if you’re like me, then I’m assuming you’re going to want it all.
Black-eye peas are where this dish begins though, and let now me tell you about this amazing dendê oil…
BLACK-EYE PEA BATTER, FRYING IN THAT DARK, RED PALM OIL
The two key ingredients to this food are the black-eye pea batter, and a type of palm oil (which is known locally as Dendê oil).
In this part of Brazil, there is a local belief that not only is dendê oil healthy, but foods that include dendê are foods worthy of use in ceremonies, and local Bahian religious traditions.
Some believe that this oil even rejuvenates the body, that this oil is good for the soul!
After falling in love with acarajé for myself recently, I won’t argue with that belief at all.
THIS DARK COLOR IS NATURAL, AND JUST PERFECT FOR MAKING CRISPY ACARAJÉ
The dark color of this red palm fruit oil is natural, and – although this may come as a surprise – it is much more healthy than deep frying using palm kernel oil (the more commonly known type of ‘palm oil’).
African Red Oil Palms are abundant in South America, and although its uses are similar, African red palm nuts contains much less saturating fats than the more common palm kernel nuts.
Deep Flavor of Red Palm Oil
Enough about health though, and back to the taste – cooking in this way also makes the acarajé black-eye pea bun so incredibly and wonderfully crispy – this is just the thing you want after your long day at work.
In my opinion this is the most delicious way to have this food, and you can start thinking about other healthy options after one (at least) of this type of acarajé patty.
THE NEXT BATCH IS READY, HAVE YOU MADE UP YOUR MIND?
Make Your Selection
As the next batch of frying-oil buns are ready, step up to the cart, and choose your fillings.
Try to contain your hunger for just one more tantalizing minute, and enjoy watching as your miniature masterpiece of Salvador beauty takes form.
Acarajé da Ivone
Speaking of street carts, if you do happen to visit Salvador, then do yourself a favor and find the street cart of Acarajé da Ivone.
Few people have been making acarajé in this town for longer than Dona Ivone, and her acarajé making-skills and experience will just blow you away.
OCEAN SHRIMP, PREPARED WITH DRY SPICES, OIL, AND A LOT OF SALT
There will always be options when it comes to acarajé, its just a wonderfully customizable sandwich, but the standard combo needs to have these three main things.
A FRESH SALAD OF GREEN TOMATOES, ONIONS, AND CILANTRO
South American food uses huge amounts of manioc (cassava) in an absolutely mind-boggling amount of ways. I can tell you of no place more delicious to explore these varieties though, than in North and North-East Brazil.
One common addition to acarajé is ‘vatapá,’ which gets its yellow color from dendê oil (and also includes manioc flour, ground peanuts, and ground chashews)
VATAPA IS SO CREAMY, A PERFECT ADDITION TO YOUR ACARAJE SANDWICH
This vatapá paste is a favorite food of Belém, in the neighboring state of Pará, and it is delicious when eaten simply over rice on its own as well (see a video of us eating an amazing Amazon food called Tacacá).
Dendê oil, the same oil that they use to fry the patties, gives the red and brown colors you see in so many recipes, including vatapà.
Necessary in so many recipes in this part of the world, the dênde oil is also a part of the chili oil sauce that you see behind the vatapà bowl on this street food cart.
Integrating the rich flavor of dênde oil into so many levels during the preparation of acarajé – and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
CARURU IS MADE WITH OKRA, AND GROUND CASHEW NUT PASTE
Another option might be caruru, which is a gloriously gooey and spicy paste of okra (lady fingers), and cashew nut paste.
I love this food over rice, and also remember a great meal eating it with another Afro-Brazilian food called bobo. You can check out this great restaurant right here, in another area of the city of Salvador, at Boteca de Janela.
Second to Last Step – Chili Oil
Finally, any and every food in Brazil tastes even better with the addition of Brazil’s favorite chili oil.
Seriously, the flavor in Brazilian peppers is unlike any other pepper vibrancy you’ll experience – and the same is true for the pepper’s spicy heat! Incredibly hot peppers here, enough to light up even the most experienced chili lover.
WITH THIS ACARAJÉ IN HAND, ALL IS WELL IN THE WORLD…
Finally, you have your sandwich, and all is well in the world. I know that my eyes were focusing on nothing but my deep-fried bun by this point, I am sure you’ll experience this as well.
The heart-warming, mouth-watering, stomach-filling goodness of Acarajé is honestly hard to put into words.
Its not quite a meal, but it is an extremely hearty snack if you’re thinking of it that way. Each bite is so full of flavor its mind-blowing – the salty shrimp, the delightfully warm and gooey okra and manioc paste (vatapá), and finally the bright combo of the green tomatoes, cilantro, and finally the chili.
Enjoy every bite, and prepare yourself for round two (because in my opinion you really need to have at least one of each main type when you’re here).
FOR ROUND TWO, BE SURE TO TRY A SIMILAR SANDWICH – THE NAME IS ABARÁ
A second sandwich-style food commonly served in Bahia is Abará (you’ll remember the names after having them a few times I’m sure). Instead of deep-frying the abará though, they steam many of the ingredients in this food, making it actually even more filling than acarajé.
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