ATAPA - BRAZILIAN SEAFOOD STEW WITH COCONUT MILK & DENDE OIL
Vatapá is a scrumptious seafood stew and is one of the classic dishes of Brazilian cuisine. It hails from Bahia state on the northeast coast where many of the dishes have African origins. A thick version of vatapá is often served as a filling for acarajé patties.
Stir in the stock or water and whisk in the peanut or cashew butter until smooth. Then stir in the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes to meld the flavors.
Stir in the shrimp and coconut milk and simmer another 5 or 6 minutes, or until shrimp is almost cooked through. Remove from heat, stir in the dendê oil and serve over rice or alongside acarajé bean fritters.
VATAPÁ NOTES AND VARIATIONS
Vatapá de Peixe (Fish vatapa): Substitute 1 1/2 pounds of firm white-fleshed fish, cut into chunks, for the shrimp.
If you can't find dried shrimp, you can puree about 1 cup of fresh raw shrimp in a blender and substitute it for the dried. A truly authentic dish would use dendê, or red palm oil, which gives the dish a bright yellow-orange tint. If you can't find red palm oil, try adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric to the onion-shrimp paste instead.
Some recipes call for the addition of 1 tablespoon of fresh, minced ginger. Others for 1 to 2 cups of chopped tomatoes. The breadcrumbs act as a thickener for the vatapá. Some recipes use cornmeal instead. Others thicken it like a gravy with flour.