What is Bahia? Well, it is more like, where is Bahia?
Bahia is a north-eastern state in Brazil bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Many travel blogs, such as Condé Nest, will argue that Bahia has some of the best beaches in Brazil. I would agree with that statement as I was fortunate to visit the area when I was younger, and I have fond memories of the beautiful coastline and the flavor-packed food.
The Bahian cuisine is a legacy of the Afro-Brazilian culture, where the African slaves would combine the use of local ingredients with traditions from home. Bahian dishes are often based on a foundation of; coconut cream, ginger, coriander, shrimp, spicy peppers, and dende oil. Dende oil is made from the reddish pulp of the fruit from the oil palms, such as the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis.
Now that the background is complete lets get to the our meal at Pão de Festa!
Pão de Festa is a small unassuming restaurant in São Paulo. The walls were brightly colored with Bahian-inspired decor. But aside from the bright decor the restaurant was modest in size and grandeur. If it wasn’t for the metropolitan background, this restaurant could easily be found in a sleepy fish-town of Bahia.
When we arrived, there was a large group monopolizing most of the tables, but luckily we were able to grab a table for the 5 of us. Grace, my step-mother, knows the owner and the cuisine, so she was in charge of ordering.
Guess what got ordered first??
Caipirinha and beer 🙂
Then we started with Acarajé. They look like hushpuppies, but instead of cornmeal they are made from pealed black eyes peas and fried in none other than DENDE OIL. The acarajé is served with vatapá, tomato salad, and dried shrimp. Vatapá, texturally, reminded me a refried beans, but the flavor was totally different. Think subtle, salty, and creamy. It is made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, finely ground peanuts, and dende oil mashed into a creamy paste. I was told the best way to eat acarajé is to cut in in half and assemble it with the toppings. Did I eat the dried shrimp? No. Should I have? Yes. I try to live under the motto of “eat everything”, but sometimes I lack the courage to try something outside my comfort zone.
While we were still munching on the acarajé, the Carne de Sol arrived (we had this at Mocotó as well). Once again, the dish fell victim to my stomach and hunger before I remembered to snap a photo, oops. I didn’t manage to get one of Dad finishing his, hence the somewhat blurry photo. The meat was salty with a crunchy caramelized exterior, while the sautéed onions added crunch and a little bit of sweetness.
I need to mention the two hot sauces that accompanied this meal (picture below). You would think the green one would be more mild as compared to the red one, right?!? BUT NO! The green one WAS SO SPICY. It caught my poor grandmother off guard and she was coughing for a couple minutes. Just a warning, know you spice tolerance and proceed cautiously!
Still hungry, we ordered a traditional Bahian dish Moqueca. I didn’t know until the dish arrived, but they had ordered Moqueca with siri mole.
Siri mole = soft shell crab
I am not going to lie I was super nervous to try this dish. Soft shell crab definitely scares me. The idea of eating everything, freaks me out! It is like eating a spider, creepy.
But I am SO glad that I tried this, because it was SO good! Moqueca may look like a curry, but that is just the dende oil giving it the vibrant yellow color. The stew is made with coconut milk, tomatoes,onion, garlic, and coriander . I cut everything up really tiny, because I am werid and the legs were freaking me out, and ate it along with rice and farofa (manioc flour with dende oil). The rice and farofa are essential because they soak up the delicious stew broth. This stew is by no means heavy, the coconut milk and tomatoes keep it light, while the dende oil, spicy peppers, and coriander pack a punch of flavor.
As you can tell we thoroughly enjoyed everything!
So, If you are in São Paulo and can’t make it up to Bahia, stop by Pão de Festa for some traditional coastal food within the heart of a metropolitan city.
Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette
Click photos for website source! 🙂