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!