July 15, 2015

Taste of Tradition - moqueca Baiana

Over 300-years ago moqueca was already being referred to in Portuguese colonial documents as a prominent dish of Brazil, where the culinary tastes of the new world were being shaped by native Indian, African, and of course Portuguese traditions. Bahia was the epicenter of this merging of influences.

Moqueca was born from combining principally African ingredients with the abundant seafood of Bahia, the Brazilian state with the longest stretch of coastline, where still today people prepare moqueca often for family and friends and celebrate it as a milestone of the region's entire culture.

And while other parts of Brazil have adopted the dish and modified it, in Espirito Santo it’s made with tomatoes and in Rio De Janeiro they rely on olive oil, in Bahia the popular recipe seems unchanged over the centuries.

UXUA tries it’s best to do justice to this treasure of Bahia, keeping its savory impact, but not without giving our equilibrated touch, ever-so-slightly lightening the mix of dende (palm) oil, while being particularly generous with the fresh prawns and whitefish we're so lucky to have in abundance around us in Trancoso.

The secret of a good moqueca is to use the freshest ingredients.

Moqueca is never served without being accompanied by some very specific side dishes .

As with most meals in Bahia, rice must be served.

A traditional Bahian meal can't be complete without the plantain farofa (crunchy spiced Brazilian manioc flour).

Pirão is made by creating a concentrated gravy from the simmering moqueca, and adding a bit of manioc flour to create a thick, creamy mix similar in substance to polenta. Its so packed with flavor and taste it can intimidate first-timers, but for those familiar with Bahian cuisine its one of the most cherished parts of the meal.

At UXUA as in most of Bahia the panela de barro (traditional ceramic dishes) are often used, allowing dishes to be cooked and served to the table steaming hot, and with the heavy ceramic lid on top remain piping hot throughout the meal. These ceramic pots have almost mythical importance in Bahia, and there are legends of how to care for them. At UXUA the ceramic pots are always baptized with palm oil before their first use. If you ask our cooks why, they’ll tell you only that skipping this ritual risks that the pot will soon be break or disappear.


For the moqueca:

For the farofa:

For the rice:

For the Pirão: