Vatapá (Brazilian Shrimp Stew)

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Staying on the Brazil train for a moment – because the Olympics are inspiring in more ways than one!  This classic Brazilian dish is delicious.  It’s also a bit time-consuming if you do it the original way. And it has some harder to find ingredients.  So I streamlined the original recipe, which I got from my favorite Saveur: The New Classics cookbook, to make it easier without sacrificing flavor.


  • 3/4 lb Cod Fillet
  • 1/4 cup Cashews
  • 1/4 cup Unsalted Peanuts
  • 3 Scallions
  • 2 Dried Chiles de Árbol (I used Thai Dragon Chiles though)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 One inch piece fresh Ginger
  • 6 oz Country-style White Bread (I used a French Bread)
  • 1 14 oz can Coconut Milk (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup Palm Oil
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 3-5 canned, whole peeled Tomatoes
  • 4 cups Fish Stock
  • 1 lb. Shrimp
  • Kosher Salt & Pepper
  • Optional: 1/2 cup small dried shrimp (if you can find it)
  • Brown or White Rice, for serving

Here’s what I did:

There are a few things you can do ahead of time to prep for making this dish.  First, make the cashew puree:  In a mini food processor, puree the dried shrimp (if using), the cashews, peanuts, chopped scallions, chiles, minced garlic and chopped ginger until the mixture is fine and paste-like.

Next, in a regular food processor, break the bread into chunks and combine with the coconut milk for about 20 minutes.  Then puree and set the bread paste aside.

When you’re ready to cook the stew, here are the rest of the directions:

Heat the palm oil in a 4 quart pot over medium-high heat.  Chop the onion and add to the pot, cooking until softened – about 10 minutes.

Next, add the shrimp/cashew paste, mixing well and cooking for 2-3 minutes.  After that, add the whole, peeled tomatoes, breaking them in your hand as you put them in the pot. Cook for about six minutes.  Then add the bread paste and the fish stock.

Stir well, bringing the pot to a boil.  Then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes. 15 minutes through the simmer, add the chopped up pieces of cod.  When there are five minutes left in the cook time, add the peeled, deveined shrimp.

Season with salt and pepper.  Serve over rice and enjoy!


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A few notes, FYI:

According to my sources (aka the Internet), the palm oil and coconut milk are a must for achieving the authentic taste of this dish.  I was able to get palm oil at Whole Foods and coconut milk at any of my local grocery stores.

For the coconut milk, get the kind that comes in a can.  It is much thicker than coconut milk in a carton since it’s used for cooking instead of drinking.

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