Spiced shrimp and coconut stew recipe

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This is a classic example of the blending of cultures that is common throughout much of the South American cuisine. With its influences and ingredients coming from Africa (dendé, dried shrimp, and coconuts), Portugal (bread, onions, and garlic), and native South America (tomatoes, chiles, and peanuts), vatapá displays the wealth of several cuisines.

  • Yield: 5 pounds, or 15 portions (5 ounces/portion)


  • 1 oz Dendê (also called palm oil; if this is unavailable, use vegetable oil or annatto oil)
  • 12 oz Yellow Onion, sliced thin
  • 1 oz Garlic, minced
  • 3 oz Green Onions, sliced thin (about 1 bunch)
  • 2 oz Ginger Root, grated
  • 1 oz Manzano Chili, minced (substitute 2 oz serrano, if this is unavailable)
  • 8 oz Green Bell Pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 lb Tomato Concassée, chopped fine
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ bunch Cilantro
  • 2 oz Dried Shrimp, peeled and ground
  • 28 oz Coconut Milk
  • 6 oz Peanuts, roasted and ground
  • 2 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 cup Day-Old Bread, soaked in 1 cup of water and puréed
  • 2 lbs Shrimp (26/30), peeled and deveined
  • ¼ bunch Cilantro, minced
  • Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
How to Make It
  1. Heat a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients over a medium-low flame, and add the dendê.
  2. Once the dendê is hot, add the onion, garlic, green onion, ginger, chili, and bell pepper; sweat the ingredients over a medium-low flame until they are very soft (approximately 15–20 minutes).
  3. Add the tomato to the pot; turn the heat up to stew the liquid from the tomato for 5 minutes, or until the pan begins to appear dry again.
  4. Add the cilantro, salt, and ground shrimp, and stir very well to combine.
  5. Add the coconut milk, and remove mixture from heat.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a blender, and blend until smooth; return the mixture to the pot.
  7. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over a medium flame, and stir in the ground peanuts, lime juice, and soaked and puréed bread; allow these to cook while stirring to thicken (if the vatapá gets too thick, add water to thin it).
  8. Once the vatapá begins to thicken, add the shrimp and continue to stir while the shrimp cooks (about 3 minutes).
  9. Remove from heat; season with fresh cilantro, salt, and pepper. Serve over rice.

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