They say the best way see ones backyard is through the eyes of a stranger. And that is exactly what happened when i met an friend on an exchange program from Brasil. Maria Roella from San Paulo decided to drop in and surprise me drink. We have travelled together on occasion and she the quintessential backpacker who, like me, lives her life through a lens and sleeping bag.
At breakfast, she decided to treat me to a day in Brasil. A luncheon special -of her favorite street food dish- Acaraje and some evening entertainment with a bunch of Capoeiristas who she befriended over a beer the night prior had invited her for a show that evening.
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, that combines elements of dance,acrobatics and music and is sometimes referred to as a game. Developed in Brasil mainly by West African descendants (slaves sent to Brasil) at the beginning of the 16th century. Capoeira was born in harsh environments and treatment of slaves with a simple hope of survival from their Portuguese masters. It was a tool, with which an escaped slave, completely unequipped, could survive in the hostile, unknown land and face the hunt of the armed mounted colonial agents who were charged with finding and capturing them. They were known as capitates-do-mato
The etymology of the word ‘capoeira’ comes from the Tupi words ‘ka’a’ meaning jungle, ‘e puer ‘ it was, referring to the areas of low vegetation in Brasils interiors where fugitive slaves would hide.A practitioner of this art is called a Capoeirista.
Lunch was an affair interspersed with tales of travel over some good vino while we slaved in the kitchen together. Maria Roella, being the historical chef explained the dish to me as we went along. Acaraje or Akara is a dish made from peeled black eyed peas ( not it has not got anything Fergilicious to it) formed into a ball and deep-fried in palm oil. In our case we used extra virgin olive oil. Predominantly found in Brasils northeastern states especially from her home town of Salvador. Once deep fried it is split in half and stuffed with vatapa and caruru- some seriously spicy pastes made from shrimp, ground cashews, oil and some secret ingredients the way her mama taught her. A vegetarian version of the same is typically served with hot peppers and green tomatoes. Akara is originally a recipe by the Yoruba people of South Western Nigeria. This dish played a significant role in their culture, as it was only prepared in large quantities and distributed across every household when a person came of age (70 and above to be specific) and died. It also used to be prepared as a sign of victory, when warriors came back victorious from war by the women of the village for all.
If I had I loosely base it i would say our vada pav from Maharashtra would be close contender had it been deep fried much like a bread potato pakora. I’m sure by now you know the lingo of what a pakora means.
Word of caution, for someone with a mild palette it’s best to keep a bottle of chilled beer on standby. It’s guaranteed to douse the flames a lot quicker than the arrival of the fire brigade.
Obrigado por uma boa refeicao, Maria Roella (thank you for a good meal)
Till we meet on our next adventure together; Vaya con Dios ( God be with you)