Walking along the streets of Salvador in Bahia, a Brazilian state, you are bound to spot some women dressed rather differently amidst the crowd. But don’t let their distinctiveness turn you off. Instead, let them offer you one of Bahia’s specialty- the acarajé.

Acarajé is a popular street food in Salvador. It is a fritter that is cut in half and stuffed with shrimps, vatapá (a kind of paste made with a variety of ingredients), salad, and pepper. But it belongs to a totally different level of sidewalk snacks. It is a national treasure. In fact, the craft of making the acarajé and the traditions surrounding it have been recognized as an Intangible Historic Heritage of Brazil.

Acarajé is Brazil’s national treasure. (Photo Credit: Pelourinho - Salvador_Acarajé by Flickr user caipifamily)
Acarajé is Brazil’s national treasure. (Photo Credit: Pelourinho – Salvador_Acarajé by Flickr user caipifamily)

This street food is an important element of the Afro-Brazilian religion called Candomblé. Believers offer it to their goddess Iansã to receive grace. Women who escaped slavery in Africa centuries ago found refuge in Bahia and started selling acarajé.

Even today, acarajé is still a big part of the Bahian culture and traditional preparations are still being observed. Here are some more tips and further information on the delicacy to make your acarajé experience more enjoyable:

  • Acarajé was coined from the African words “acara” which means ball of fire and “jé” which means to eat.
  • The snack is made from ground, peeled black-eyed beans and seasoned with salt and white onions. How these ingredients are kneaded makes a lot of difference. They are shaped into small cakes and fried in palm oil. It is essential to use palm oil to give the acarajé its nice golden brown color.
  • Brazilians believe that an authentic acarajé can only be prepared by the Baianas de Acarajé. They prefer to work with their hands the traditional way and refuse to use modern technology. Now, that’s a good reason to visit Bahia.
  • The baianas, women who sell acarajé, have not made revisions to the original recipe. It is because the food is considered sacred. They also think that acarajé won’t taste as good if modifications are to be made.
  • The costume that the baianas wear is also part of the tradition. There are now more colorful variations but many still wear an all-white ensemble. The baianas wear a petticoat, a skirt, cotton pants under the petticoat, laced or embroidered bodice, a headdress, and necklaces.

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About Kathy del Castillo

Kathy is a free spirit who has an attention span equivalent to that of a squirrel. So it's only seemly that she has a penchant for adventures and spontaneity. And because she is expected to earn her keep, she works as an online freelancer doing (what else?) random stuff.


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