Acarajé are bean patties, fried up in dende oil and sold by street vendors in Bahia, north-eastern Brazil.
In theory, they are made from black-eyed peas soaked, then crushed, mixed with salt and onion to form a paste. In practice, they are more often made from brown beans, as they are less expensive. Additional seasonings can be added to the mixture. The paste is then shaped into small, oval patties, which are then fried up in dende oil and eaten while still hot. Onion is first fried in the oil to flavour the oil a bit.
They are made and sold by women dressed in white called “baianas de acarajé.”
You can buy the patties plain or with a filling.
If you ask for yours with a filling (which costs a bit extra), the vendors will cut them open and offer you filling choices that include:
- camarão (small sun-dried shrimp);
- caruru (an okra stew);
- pimenta (hot pepper sauce);
- salada (diced tomatoes, onions and fresh coriander);
- vatapá (shrimp paste.)
In addition to being a street food, Acarajé are used as ritual food by the Candomblé religion in Brazil. The patties are offered up to the goddess Oxum, who back in Africa was the goddess of the river Niger in Nigeria. In fact, each day before they start selling to the public, even the street vendors first fry up three small ones for gods called “Erês”, who are gods that protect children.
In the past, many people in Brazil wouldn’t eat the patties, because of its association with another religion other than Catholicism, but now the patties are more accepted as a general “fast food”, and other makers are trying to muscle in on the growing popularity of them. You can now even buy powdered Acarajé mixes or frozen Acarajé in supermarkets. In 2002, the street vendors formed an association called “Baianas of Acarajé Association” to try to stop others from selling them, particularly restaurants and markets.
BBC News. Street vendors fight for fritter monopoly. 17 September 2002.