About Brazilian Moqueca Baiana
Moqueca is a Brazilian dish originating from the culinary legacies of Indigenous, European, and African cooking. The native Brazilian had a dish called pokeka, a slow-cooked fish wrapped in a leaf. The cooking method used was known as moquém.
With the Portuguese colonization, the European tradition of stews reached Brazil. Soon, there was a mixture between native and European cooking styles, and the tropical fish were added to the stews, giving rise to moqueca.
In the Bahia region, the African immigrants added their ingredients and preparation methods to the dish. Thus, the Bahian moqueca was created, which takes Brazilian palm oil and coconut milk in addition to fish and seafood.
If you are looking for a milder version, don’t miss the Moqueca Capixaba Style Recipe.
To learn more, we talk about the history of moqueca in Brazil and the main types.
Essential Ingredients for Traditional Bahian Moqueca
Fish is the great protagonist of Bahian moqueca. It is essential to choose a fish with firm consistency for this recipe, which does not fall apart during cooking. In Brazil, the most suitable fish for making moqueca are: cação, robalo, badejo, pintado, dourado, namorado, filhote, dentão, papaterra, and garoupa.
Another important ingredient in this moqueca recipe is the shrimp. Being a type of seafood that requires more delicate cooking, it is essential to add the shrimp at the end of the preparation.
Palm Oil (Dendê Oil)
Palm oil is one of the main African heritages in the preparation of Bahian-style moqueca. Also known as red palm oil, this ingredient is responsible for the reddish color of the moqueca sauce and for its slightly sweet flavor. It might not be easy to find abroad but you can order it online.
A product of African influence, coconut milk is an essential ingredient in the preparation of Bahian moqueca, bringing creaminess to the dish. Give preference to the homemade coconut milk, which preserves all the fruit’s flavor.
Tips for making a delicious Shrimp and Fish Moqueca
How to make homemade coconut milk
Coconut milk can be prepared at home. To do so, you should beat dried coconut pieces in a blender with hot water for approx. 4 minutes. Then strain the milk through a fine sieve or cotton cloth.
Marinate the fish before
To ensure the fish used in the moqueca incorporates the seasonings, it is essential to marinate it first. In this step, beat the seasoning ingredients in a food processor or blender until they form a paste. Then add this marinade to the fish cuts, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
What is the ideal pan for the Bahia-style moqueca?
Although you can make the moqueca recipe in aluminum or iron pots, the clay pot is the best. This material allows for uniform cooking of the ingredients and perfectly harmonizes the spices with the flavor of the fish and seafood. In addition, the clay pot maintains the heat for longer, keeping the dish warm throughout the meal.
Whatch out the shrimp cooking point
The shrimp require less cooking time and should therefore be added at the end of the moqueca preparation. It prevents the shrimp from becoming hard.
Variations of Moqueca Baiana
There are many ways to adapt the preparation of moqueca, adding new flavors or adjusting for dietary restrictions:
- In the preparation of moqueca baiana other seafood can also be used, such as squid, octopus, clams, or crab;
- The fish can be replaced by other proteins such as chicken and dried meat;
- Egg moqueca is a very popular vegetarian option;
- For a vegan recipe, you can replace the fish and shrimp with plantains, heart of palm, or mushrooms.
Recipe: How to make Brazilian Moqueca
Fish and Shrimp Brazilian Moqueca – Bahia-Style
- 2 kg fish - cut into pieces
- 1 kg shrimp - raw, peeled & deveined
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 3 onions
- 2 cups cilantro leaves
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tomatoes
- 3 limes - juice
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup red palm oil (dendê oil)
- 300 ml coconut milk
- salt - to taste
- red chilli pepper - fresh, to taste
Marinate the fish
- Place in a food processor or blender half of the cilantro leaves, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tomato, 1 onion, and the juice of the limes.
- Add salt to taste.
- Blend the ingredients until they form a paste.
- Spread this mixture over the fish, covering all surfaces.
- Cover the container with plastic wrap and refrigerate to marinate for about 30 minutes.
Prepare the moqueca
- Slice the bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Set aside. Deseed the chilli pepper and cut into small pieces.
- Place the fish cuts in a clay pot and cover with the marinade paste.
- Cover in layers with the slices of onion, tomato, bell pepper, and chilli pepper.
- Bring the pot to medium heat.
- Drizzle with olive oil and palm oil.
- When the preparation begins to boil (about 15 minutes), lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
- While cooking, drizzle the ingredients with its own sauce without stirring too much so as not to spoil the fish.
- Add the coconut milk and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves and serve it hot.