By the time I tasted my first bobó de camarão I was an adult; well, I was 17 going on 30, and my friend Arnaldo, who was 30, introduced me to bobó in a restaurant in Belo Horizonte.
Seafood was virtually absent from my family’s menu; the sea had not graced my state with its grandeur, and that long ago, my family did not believe in freezing anything. I was acquainted with the Bahian Culinary Trinity: dendê oil, malagueta pepper and coconut milk… but adding the shrimp to that concoction elevated the trinity to a divine level.
The entire Afro-Brazilian cuisine has a well-defined character that can be tasted through its scent and appetizing appearance. The bobó and so many other African dishes arrived in Brazil by the way of Bahia, the state with the largest number of African descendents. The Bahians added their je-ne-sais-qua to the exotic dishes giving them the “brazilianess” they deserved. Today, the shrimp in yuca cream is one of the most popular shrimp-dishes in Brazil. Great chefs and restauranteurs have introduced it across the world, and I want to bring it to your kitchen – at first the recipe can be a little intimidating, but let your love for cooking guide you.
Having experienced the bobó, Arnaldo and I went back to our small town armed with the restaurant’s recipe and the ingredients we bought at Mercado Central. That weekend, our principal reason for visiting the capital became second place – Nelson Rodrigues’ play had been memorable as always, but second place, nonetheless. Since then I have experimented with a variety of recipes and have concluded that my first recipe was the best by far. I am sure it will not disappoint.
I have encountered recipes that replaces the yuca for inhame (a root that I love and will share some recipes later), which is not persuasive enough to play with the Bahian Culinary Trinity. Enjoy your bobó de camarão.
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail removed
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Juice of 1 1/2 limes, divided
1 pound yuca (cassava), peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 large tomatoes, no skin or seeds, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup scallions or cilantro, chopped, divided
1 cup coconut milk (can)
1/4 cup dendê oil (red palm oil) available online
1/2 tablespoon minced Malagueta pepper or Jalapeno
1. In a medium bowl, season the shrimp with salt and ground pepper. Drizzle with the juice of 1 lime; place in the refrigerator.
2. In a large pot, pour enough water to cover the peeled yuca, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Boil uncovered for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain.
3. In a large pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and bell peppers in oil for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add the garlic and 1/4 cup scallions or cilantro.
4. Place the sautéed vegetables, coconut milk and the boiled yuca in a blender and process until smooth. Pour it back in the pot and cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, so it will not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the shrimp, peppers, and dendê. Cook for 4 minutes over medium-high heat. Adjust the salt and add the remaining lime juice and cilantro or scallions. Gently stir. Serve over white rice. Serves 4.