By the time I tasted my first bobó de camarão I was an adult; seafood was virtually absent from my family’s menu. The sea had not graced my state with its grandeur, and that long ago, no one believed in freezing anything. I was acquainted with the Bahian culinary trinity: dendê oil, malagueta pepper and coconut milk. But adding the shrimp to that concoction elevated the trinity to a divine level… Well, I was seventeen going on thirty, and my friend Arnaldo who was thirty, introduced me to bobó in a restaurant in Belo Horizonte.
The entire Afro-Brazilian cuisine has a well-defined character that can be tasted through its scent and appetizing appearance. The bobó and so many other African dishes arrived in Brazil by the way of Bahia, the state with the largest number of African descendents. The Bahians added their je-ne-sais-qua to the exotic dishes giving them the brazilianess they deserved. Today, the shrimp in yucca cream is enjoyed across the world.
Having experienced the bobó, Arnaldo and I went back to our small town armed with the restaurant’s recipe and the ingredients we had brought at Mercado Central. That weekend, our principle reason for visiting the capital became second place – Nelson Rodrigues’ play had been memorable as always, but second place nonetheless. Since then I have experimented with a variety of recipes and have concluded that my first recipe was the best by far. I’ve encountered recipes that replaces the yucca for inhame (a root that I love and will share some recipes later), which is not persuasive enough to play with the Bahian culinary trinity.
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and devein, tail removed
- 2 Salt and ground pepper to taste
- 3 the juice of 1 and 1/2 limes divided
- 1 pound yucca (cassava), peeled
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 large white or yellow onion, sliced
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced
- 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
- 2 large tomatoes no skin or seeds, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup scallions or cilantro, chopped and divided
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup dendê (red palm oil) available online
- 1/2 Tbsp minced Malagueta pepper or Jalapeno
1- In a medium bowl, season the shrimp with salt and ground pepper. Drizzle with the juice of 1 lime; place in the refrigerator.
2- In a large pot, pour enough water to cover the peeled yucca, and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp salt. Boil uncovered for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain.
3- In a large pan over medium-high heat, saute the onion and bell peppers in oil for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the garlic and 1/4 cup scallions or cilantro.
4- Place the saute vegetables, coconut milk and the boiled yucca in a blender and process until smooth. Pour it back in the pot and cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the shrimp, peppers, and dendê . Cook for approximately 4 minutes over medium-high heat. Adjust the salt and add the remaining lime juice and cilantro or scallions. Gently stir. Serve over white rice. Serves 4.