In Brazil, bobo de camarao is a kind of shrimp stew. We are leaning more towards a shrimp chowder with our recipe, since we will be blending most of the ingredients for a smoother consistency. If you’re looking for a light yet satisfying weeknight meal or luncheon staple, this is the perfect recipe to add to your arsenal. Let’s take a look at some of the history behind the unique flavors of bobo de camarao, as well as some tips and tricks for attaining the perfect shrimp chowder.
Bobo de Camarao Ingredients
Brazilian shrimp chowder has its origins in Bahia, a state in the northeastern part of the country that is famous for its blue costs and bustling nightlife. It is also well known for its cuisine, which reflects the area’s rich West African Heritage. (“Bobo de camarao” translates from the Portuguese to “stew of shrimp.”)
Much of Bahia’s cuisine has shared foundations that are derived from African recipes. Natural thickening agents like manioc, okra, and banana starch are still used to bulk up stews like bobo de camarao, while ingredients like coconut milk and dende (red palm oil) add a creaminess and depth of flavor. Chili peppers are also a star ingredient in much of Bahian cooking, tempered by the sweetness of the coconut milk and the tang of tomatoes.
Of course, as a coastal region, Bahia is also a hub for seafood. Shrimp is a favorite, and it features heavily in many recipes, from stews to street food (related: see our article about the Baianas de Acaraje).
Cooking with Yuca
Yuca is also known as “manioc,” and it is a staple of Brazilian cuisine. It has similar thickening properties to cornstarch and can easily be substituted for potatoes in many recipes. Today, we are relying on it mainly for its thickening abilities, but also for its unique, nutty flavor.
Yuca requires a little preparation in order to remain tender and palatable. You will need a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. You will also need to remove the fibrous core in the center. You can just cut around this in the same way you would a mango.
In some recipes, bobo de camarao will have you cook and mash the yuca separately from the rest of the ingredients. This is not necessary if you shred the yuca beforehand and add it directly to the pot. You will be doing the same with the ginger root.
Dende Oil Substitutes for Bobo de Camarao
Dende is a crucial ingredient in this shrimp chowder, since it imparts both a unique flavor and gorgeous color. That being said, it may not be readily available in many US grocery stores. If you can’t find dende, which is red, you can substitute regular palm oil, olive oil, avocado oil, or fractionated coconut oil.
Bobo de Camarao Recipe
½ large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon dende oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ⅓ cups fresh yuca, core removed, chopped, and shredded*
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 can stewed tomatoes or 2 large fresh tomatoes, diced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
½ cup orange bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced fine (leave out ribs and seeds if you don’t want it too spicy)
1 can of coconut milk, unsweetened (14 oz)
2 cups water
Juice of one large lime
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- Heat a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Drizzle in the tablespoon of dende oil.
- Saute your chopped onions for three minutes, until softened and translucent. Then add in your minced garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add in bell peppers and jalapeno pepper. If using fresh tomatoes, add these in now as well.
- Add in the shredded fresh ginger, shredded yuca, and chopped cilantro. Pour the coconut milk over the ingredients, along with two cups of water. Stir to combine everything evenly.
- Cover the pot and simmer on low heat until the yuca is tender and cooked through (25-30 minutes).
- Check the mixture for consistency. If it is too thick or you notice any yuca sticking to the bottom of the pot, add more water to loosen it.
- Once the yuca is cooked through, add almost all of it to the belly of a blender. Leave around 2 cups for texture. Blend the rest until smooth, and then add it back to the pot.
- Now add in your shrimps and cook until pink and tender. Large shrimp will need to simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently to avoid chewy or tough shrimp!
- Garnish with fresh scallions or more cilantro. Enjoy piping hot with crusty bread, Brazilian cheese bread, or over white rice.