Moqueca is one beloved dish in Brazilian cooking. Several ingredients are mandatory: coconut milk, dende oil, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. The main protein can be shrimp, fish, or both. It is spicy, luscious, quite filling, and always served over a simple white rice. I have already messed up with this classic before, but with this recipe I shall infuriate my fellow native Brazilians a second time.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1.5 pounds large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (14.5 oz)
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon harissa (or to taste)
1.5 cups crushed tomatoes with their juice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
fresh cilantro to taste
juice of half lemon

Heat the oil on a large sauce pan. Add the fennel, shallot and bell pepper, saute everything together seasoning with salt and pepper until translucent and very fragrant.

Add the crushed tomatoes, harissa, and chickpeas, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the shrimp and  coconut milk, simmer gently until the shrimp is cooked, 5 minute or so. Add the cilantro, lemon juice and serve over white rice.  If you like, add some hot sauce on the plate.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Moqueca originated in one of the hottest states of Brazil, Bahia. Even though it is a kind of stew, it is enjoyed the whole year, even at the height of the summer. I like to bring this up because those of us living in the Northern hemisphere are headed to very warm days. Don’t twist the nose to a nice serving of moqueca for that reason. This will please you no matter how hot it is outside.

I completely forgot to get fresh cilantro at the store, so I added a couple of Dorot frozen cilantro cubes together with the coconut milk/shrimp mixture. But don’t make this mistake, fresh cilantro not only looks great but it adds a lot more flavor, especially if added right before serving the meal.

I committed many sins with the recipe, but served it over white rice as any good Brazilian would. I hope this helps restore my reputation.

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It’s time for me to post something typically Brazilian.  For those who are not familiar with Brazilian cooking, this dish is a great introduction.  It originates from Bahia, a very beautiful Brazilian state, where Summer never ends.  Most dishes from Bahia, or as we say “comida baiana”, are very spicy, just like in other hot places of the world.   The warm climate  goes hand in hand with a ton of pepper, which helps get the sweat going…

The only exotic ingredients for moqueca are coconut milk and dende (a kind of palm oil).  These days one can find coconut milk rather easily – I advise you to buy brands from Thailand and make sure it is NOT the sweetened version.  I feel a bit queasy just imagining a moqueca made with sweet coconut milk.

At the risk of receiving hate mail from Brazilians, I will share with you my recipe for shrimp moqueca, which does not include dende oil, for two reasons:  first,  I am never able to find Brazilian dende here.   Second, I actually do not mind a moqueca made without it. With this last phrase, I’ve infuriated the whole population of Bahia (more than 14 million people), and 95% of all other Brazilians (about 168 million folks).

If you are still with me, allow me to show you a slightly unconventional, but delicious moqueca recipe… And, by the way, if you want to listen to the correct pronunciation of the word, click here to listen to the very writer of this blog saying it in native Brazilian portuguese   😉


(receita em portugues ao final da proxima pagina)

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (or a mixture of dende oil and olive oil)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1  14.5oz can diced tomatoes (I like to use fire roasted, they work very well in this dish)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup coconut milk
hot pepper sauce (Tabasco, Sriracha)
fresh cilantro to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare a mild brining solution mixing 1 quart water with 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/4 cup sugar, plus the juice of half a lemon. Submerge the shrimp in the solution for about 15 minutes (see my comments). Remove shrimp from brine, rinse briefly and dry on paper towels.

Saute the onion in olive oil until it starts to turn golden, add the red bell pepper, garlic and fresh cilantro and saute for a few minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes with their juices, cook for 5 to 10 minutes to marry the flavors, and add the shrimp. Cook just until it turns opaque, add the coconut milk, reduce the heat to low, and cook until everything is heated through and the sauce is smooth. Do not let the coconut milk boil too much or it may separate (it will still taste delicious, but it will look  curdled).   Add hot pepper sauce, taste, adjust seasoning and right before serving add more fresh cilantro and the juice of the other half of the lemon.

Serve right away over white rice.

Bom apetite! 😉

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