As with my previous experiment in making flaounes at Easter, I had never even heard of acarajé before starting the Consuming Authenticities project. In my initial conversations with Ana Martins about what case studies we could explore, we struggled to think of a Brazilian food or drink that could be analysed in terms of the relationship between authenticity and history, but after a few weeks of thinking, Ana developed the idea for studying acarajé. These are a special type of bean fritter that is renowned as a cornerstone of Bahian street food and representative of that region’s African-influenced cuisine.
Most recipes emphasise the importance, for replicating the traditional fritter, of starting with dried black-eyed peas,which need to be soaked for a day and then skinned. These are then blended with onion, salt and either garlic or chili, before being fried in dendê oil.
The time-consuming nature of this process put me off trying the recipe – at least until the summer, which is always (erroneously) imagined as an oasis of time in which everything and the kitchen sink can be done before teaching starts again. But a few days ago, I came across a very straightforward short-cut recipe that seemed super easy. Simply whizz together canned kidney beans with the other ingredients, make into balls with a dried shrimp in the middle and deep-fry. The recipe didn’t even call for dendê oil specifically, but I did get some to make it slightly closer to the more elaborate recipes!
And voilà! Here’s how they turned out:
Admittedly, they don’t much look like the pictures of acarajé I’ve seen elsewhere. They’re much darker for starters, which is probably due to the darker colour of kidney beans and much less neat, which is probably due to my ineptitude. They were still pretty tasty, though I had been too heavy-handed with the salt. I’m sure the black-eyed peas would produce something quite different though, so next time (in that oasis of summer) I’ll stick to the long and laborious method.
Slightly disappointed with the results, and ever keen to shoehorn something Mexican into an eating or drinking experience, it struck me that the beans together with the flavourings of garlic and chili (I put in both, rather than one or the other, because, well, why not?) made this not too dissimilar from a type of deep-fried refried beans. Wouldn’t these be lovely with a nice fresh salsa? Oh yes!
4 responses to “Cooking Inauthentically Part 2: An Experiment with Acarajé”
I can’t believe these are not Acaraje!
I eat black eyed beans all the time and recently had some leftovers. Inspired by your experiment with Flauones, Deborah, I looked up the recipe. One of the key ingredients was dried shrimp, which I could not get hold of in west Wales, and even well known online shops didn’t have much. To be honest I was put off by finding dried shrimp also listed as reptile food!
I would have loved to make them but if I don’t get to next time I think you should definitely use black eyed beans. You don’t need to either soak or cook black eyed beans for as long as other beans, and the skins just come away really easily under running water- they float off. Plus black eyed beans are really creamy as beans go.
You’ll be making cider next!
Cider would certainly be more plausible than pulque! Thanks Elaine, I do regret not sticking to a recipe with black eyed beans – having looked at a few recipes before I was surprised to find one that said kidney beans could be used. This definitely made the bean mixture more dense and dark I think. With the dried shrimp, I think there’s a couple of ways of doing it – either you season the bean mixture with ground dried shrimp powder or you make a separate filling called vatapa with dried shrimp that you put in after the fritters are cooked. I had a packet of dried shrimp (pretty easy to obtain from Asian food stores, which abound in the East Midlands!) and did a bit of pestle-and-mortaring before adding it to the mixture. It was this that led me to over salt the mixture, as I completely forgot that dried shrimp would already give it a salty taste. Ah well, one lives and learns. The summer will definitely see me revisit acaraje with black eyed beans and flaounes with the proper spices. I can’t wait!
Sounds great- any chance of shipping in some dried shrimp to Aberystwyth when I see you on 16th?? 😀
I’ll see what I can do! 🙂