Sunday, January 11, 2009

Moqueca Capixaba-the traditional dish of Espiritu Santo, Brasil- "Moqueca" ups the stakes in LA

< Moqueca(mo-ke-ca), pirao, arroz, and malagueta-capixaba

Moqueca capixaba(ca-pee-shaw-ba)the spirit of Espiritu Santo

While talking with Natalia, the magnificent chef at Woodspoon the other night, she informed me that a friend of mine was there the night before and had missed our Minas Gerais tasting but came down to check it out anyways.I called this friend up and he said that an acquintance, a local carioca(person from Rio) had mentioned a new place in Oxnard had opened up called Moqueca."Moqueca!", I cried.The famous Brazilian dish from Bahia and Espiritu Santo in the northeast of Brazil.

I first encountered this dish walking on a beach in Ilheus, Bahia, and I've been a devotee ever since.Moqueca is a seafood stew with onions, garlic, cilantro(coentro),and tomatoes,the Capixaba(Espiritu Santo) version uses olive and soy oil, the Baiana(Bahia) moqueca has dende(palm oil) and coconut.Each claims to be the originators of moqueca, but for now, only the Espiritu Santo interpretation is available in the greater Los Angeles area.

The traditional moqueca capixaba is served with white rice and pirao(moqueca broth and yucca) and served in the same clay pot(made from black clay and local ES mangrove tree sap) in which it was cooked.Be sure and ask for the pirao, they've stopped serving it because confused diners weren't eating it. You WANT the pirao, ladies and gentlemen.

The chef at Moqueca, Tatiana, hails from Vitoria, the state capitol of Espiritu Santo, and her menu is a celebration of comida capixaba.It's likely the most extensive Brazilian menu in the LA area, perhaps the US.And, maybe the only places in the US specializing in Espiritu Santo state cuisine.This restaurant would fit in just fine in the upscale Sao Paulo neighborhood, Jardins, a modern, elegant presentation and space showcasing a unique regionality.

Moqueca of shark and fish, Moqueca of lobster and jumbo shrimp, and Bobo de Camarao

Moqueca of lobster and jumbo shrimp

The menu boasts eight capixaba moquecas, athentic Brazilian appetizers and sides(porcoes), salads and desserts,Brazilian cocktails from caipirinhas to batidas.Another excellent family run restaurant.

Tatiana says it's only been a little more than a month since opening Moqueca.

Tonight I ordered the moqueca de peixe(fish moqueca), which came with the pirao and white rice.My moqueca was extraordinary, a beautiful presentation and true capixaba flavor.On another occasion I tried the lobster and shrimp moquecas, and shark with fish.Each dish really picks up the flavors and characters of each protein due to their long, slow cooking time.

The risoles(savory) de camarao were excellent, just a little less on the inside than what we're used to, but the flavor was right on.

Other regional specialties on the menu are arroz com banana da terra and bobo de camarao(shrimp cooked in a clay pot with coconut milk, and thickened with yucca cream).The bobo de camarao here is must be included on your itinerary.An elegant, and rich cream of yucca flour with just a hint of coconut. The moquecas and bobo de camarao are for two.Moquequinhas(little moquecas) are on the appetizers menu in case you are flying solo and don't want to dust off a moqueca for two.But don't find yourself in that position, bring a friend or date and get a moqueca here, or save the rest for lunch the next day.

There is prato feito(complete meal)for lunch and other traditional Brazilian dishes for those not interested in one of the best original dishes from Brazil,moqueca!

Two Brazilian beers are on the menu, Brahma and Xingu, the batidinha(brazilian cachaca cocktail) of cachaca condensed milk and maracuja(passionfruit)I ordered was 100% Brasileiro.Paves(milk flan layered with wihipped cream), pudim(brazilian pudding), and brigadeiros(mousse) are on the dessert menu.Our Paves de amendoim(peanut butter and cookies) and bombom(crumbled chocolate bar) were sinfully good.

Intimate, romantic dining at one of the most unique regional restaurants in the US by a seasoned Brazilian chef, pulling off simple every day dishes with flair, and effortlessly crafting legendary Brazilian cuisine fit for the arbiters of fine dining in Sao Paulo.For the uninitiated at Moqueca,there's really nothing to it.Order a moqueca, put some rice on your plate, top it with moqueca, have some pirao with the rice, and toss a few malaguetas(brazilian chile)in the mix.Repeat.You are now an expert in capixaba cuisine.MOQUECA Gente!!

OXNARD, CA 93035


dealinhoz said...

Thank you for posting this. My wife and I got back from Brazil in January and if we had to name one dish we'd eat over and over again, it would be moqueca. we are considering going to Bahia, Brazil next time – supposedly the best moqueca comes from there since there is a heavy african american population there.

streetgourmetla said...

Hey eatdrinkandbemerry. Bahia is amazing, the food will knock you out.

The main difference between capixaba and baiana is the use of coconut in the baiana version. They are both serious dishes, but Bahia has such a broad range of dishes in its cuisine.The music, the culture, the macumba, the food!!