When discussing Brazilian cuisine, one of the country’s most cherished and delectable dishes is Moqueca!
As presented on the Brazilian Foodie Blog, Moqueca was originally created by the native people of Brazil. This seafood stew is slowly cooked and simmered in a clay-pot and made with some of the freshest and best ingredients Brazil has to offer.
The dish evolved during Brazil’s colonial era when the Portuguese brought coconuts to the country (and planted the coconut trees all along the coast replacing the prime wood that was taken) and the African slaves introduced Palm Oil.
There are two variations of this dish: Moqueca Baiana (from the northeast State of Bahia) and Moqueca Capixaba (from the Southeast State of Espirito Santo), the main difference being that coconut milk and palm oil are only used in the Baiana recipe.
On a recent visit to Paraty, a quaint colonial town along the Brazilian Green Coast, my family and I took part in a cooking class at the Paraty Cooking School and learned how to make the following Moqueca recipe. The Paraty Cooking school is run by a wonderful Brazilian/American couple that host guests in their colonial home while teaching them how to make some of Brazil’s most famous dishes and drinks and discussing the incredible history of local gastronomy; once finished, everyone sits down and enjoys the fruits of their labor over a five-course meal! It is a relaxed environment and a great place to meet other travelers as well (each class consists of a maximum of 8 guests).
(Please note: this dish can easily be made vegetarian by substituting the fish stock for vegetable stock and adding palm heart instead of fish. This vegetarian alternative is also vegan.)
Seafood Moqueca Paraíso Tropical
- 1/2 pound mussels, washed and debearded
- 2–3 pounds fish filets (hake, king fish, monk fish, tile fish)
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 pound sea scallops, washed
- Juice of 2 limes
- 12 teaspoons salt, divided
- 8 teaspoons pepper
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 fresh green coconut or 2 cups bottled coconut juice
- 2 cups peeled and julienned onions
- 3 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut in julienne
- 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, and seeded, and cut in julienne or 1 (16-ounce) can tomatoes
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup palm oil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro, divided
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- Pepper to taste
- 3 cups fish stock, divided
- 3 tablespoons palm oil, preheated in the microwave for 1 minute or in boiling water for 3 minutes
- Place the mussels on a tray and refrigerate.
- Place the fish fillets, shrimp, and scallops on a deep platter. Sprinkle with lime juice, 6 teaspoons salt, and 4 teaspoons pepper, and marinate for 1⁄2 hour. Strain before using.
- Cook and serve the moqueca in the same pan. Use an earthenware or braiser pan.
- If you are using a fresh green coconut, make a hole with a sharp knife. Pour the coconut water into a container and reserve. (If you are not using immediately, keep refrigerated.) Open the coconut in half and scoop out all the white pulp with a spoon and place in a bowl. Blend the juice with the pulp and reserve.
- If using bottled coconut juice, whisk it with the coconut milk. Reserve.
- In a large bowl, toss the onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and the coarsely chopped cilantro, parsley, and scallions. Reserve.
- In a large pan or braiser, heat the vegetable oil with the palm oil and sauté the chopped onion for 2 minutes; add the garlic and 1⁄3 of the finely chopped cilantro and stir well. Add the bay leaf, season with 6 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper, and add 1 cup of the fish stock. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Make layers, alternating the vegetables and herbs with the fish, shrimp, and scallops, ending with the vegetables, mussels, and herbs.
- Pour the coconut mixture and 1 cup of fish stock around the layers. The liquid should barely cover the fish and vegetables. Cook, covered, over medium high heat for 15 minutes. Check the seasonings and adjust if necessary. Add preheated palm oil evenly around the pan. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro.
- Serve at once with white rice, Palm Oil Farofa, and Malagueta Hot Pepper Sauce.
Want to add Paraty Cooking School to your next Brazil adventure? Check out the following itineraries where this can easily be included:
- 9-Day Sao Paulo, Paraty and Rio de Janeiro
- 6-Day Trekking Reserva da Joatinga: Wonders of the Green Coast
- 4-Day Rio de Janeiro Essentials Adventure
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Your friendly Brazil expert,