Moqueca is a quintessentially Brazilian dish, with nearly every seaside town having its own variation on this fish or seafood stew. In Bahia, they add an African element to the dish in the form of dend. oil. Derived from the palm tree, this bright orange oil has a very special flavour for which there is no substitute. Moqueca is very easy to prepare, and you can substitute prawns (shrimp) with small fillets of fish or other types of seafood. I love serving this moqueca over Japanese rice that’s flavoured with coriander (cilantro) and lemon, as in this donburi recipe.
750g (1lb 11 ¾ oz) large fresh prawns (shrimp), peeled and deveined (reserve 2 whole prawns (shrimp) to garnish)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp light soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g (14oz) tinned Italian tomatoes, including juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes
400ml (13.fl oz/1 ¾ cups) coconut milk
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp dende oil (it’s a palm oil available from Brazilian or African food shops)
Sunflower oil, for greasing
2 tbsp coriander (cilantro)
Cress, to garnish
For the coriander rice:
1 ½ portions of Steamed rice (see page 225)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Maldon sea salt
finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 tbsp finely chopped coriander (cilantro)
First, prepare the Japanese steamed rice by following the instructions on page 225 (below). Once the rice is cooked and before fluffing it, make a green coriander (cilantro) salsa by mixing in a bowl the extra virgin olive oil, salt, lemon zest and juice, garlic and coriander (cilantro). Fold the coriander (cilantro) salsa well into the cooked rice and set aside.
In a bowl, mix together the prawns (shrimp), freshly ground black pepper, light soy sauce, lemon juice and garlic well, cover and let marinate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor and pass through a sieve (strainer), discarding any seeds or skin. Set aside this tomato puree (paste).
In a medium cast-iron pan, heat the olive oil over a low heat and fry the onion until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, salt and the tomato puree (paste) and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick; this should take about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the reserved whole prawns (shrimp) in a little olive oil until pink, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the prawns (shrimp) warm.
Next, stir the coconut milk and chopped chilli into the thickened tomato sauce, bring to the boil and then add the prepared prawns (shrimp) as well as the marinade. Cook over a medium heat until the prawns (shrimp) have gone lightly pink, about 1 minute. Then, stir in the dend oil, turn off the heat and check for seasoning.
A classic Japanese donburi is a bowl of steamed rice with a topping of meat, fish or vegetables. For this Nikkei dish, however, I like serving the moqueca de camarão placed around the rice rather than over it. So, lightly grease a medium bowl with a little sunflower oil, fill it with the coriander rice and press it down so that the rice is lightly compressed. Up end the bowl and turn out the rice in the middle of a serving plate and then remove the bowl. Spoon the prawn (shrimp) stew (moqueca de camarão) around the mound of coriander rice adding plenty of sauce, place the whole prawns (shrimp) on the plate and finish off with a scattering of coriander (cilantro) cress. Serve immediately.
Steamed White Rice
300g (10 ½ oz/1 1/3 cups) short-grain white rice
370ml (12 ½ fl oz/1 2/3 cups) water
1–4 Wash the rice in a bowl with plenty of fresh water using a circular motion with your hand. Drain the water and repeat this rinsing three or four times until the water runs clear.
5–6 Tip the rice into a sieve (strainer) and let it drain for 15 minutes. Transfer the rice to a bowl and soak it in the measured water for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to 4 hours (the longer the soaking, the wetter and stickier the rice will be).
Rice cooker method: When the soaking time is up, add the rice along with its soaking water to the bowl of the rice cooker, close the lid and turn it on. It should take approximately 15–20 minutes to cook. Once the rice cooker’s alarm beeps, let the rice rest in the unopened rice cooker for at least 15 minutes before fluffing it to serve.
Pan and hob (stove) method: Choose a pan with a tightly fitting lid (preferably of glass) and with a small ventilation hole for some of the steam to escape. When the soaking time is up, add the rice along with its soaking water to the pan, place the lid on and bring to the boil (a glass lid will allow you to see when the water comes to the boil). As soon as it boils, turn the heat to its lowest setting and simmer gently for 12–15 minutes. Do not remove the lid at any stage during cooking or resting. Take off the heat and let the rice rest for a further 15 minutes before fluffing it and serving. Cooking times may vary depending on the quality of the rice, the pan used and how hot the hob (stove) is.
Cook’s note: You can cook rice in advance and keep it warm in a rice cooker or reheat it in a microwave if time is tight, though the texture won’t be the same.
Recipes and images extracted from Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara. Photography by Lisa Linder. Published by Jacqui Small (£25).