Moqueca is a Spicy Brazilian Shrimp and Fish Stew. (Pronounced “MO’-ke-kuh”) Moquequa is made with unsweetened coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime juice and fish or seafood. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make, and how many compliments you will receive from your friends and family. They’ll think you worked for hours to make such a beautiful and flavorful seafood stew.
Brazilians typically use palm oil or dendê oil. Dendê oil is high in saturated fat, and is semi-solid at room temperature. It’s available online and in some specialty stores, but you don’t feel like you have to run out and buy a bottle for this one specific use. I substituted olive oil to cook the vegetables and then added a couple of tablespoons full of coconut oil at the end to amp up the traditional coconut flavor.
Make sure you buy unsweetened coconut milk, not the kind you use in those fancy Polynesian drinks with pineapple juice and rum. Most grocery stores carry it, but you may have to look on the aisle with the ethnic foods to find it. It adds a unique, creamy flavor and texture to the stew and it is crucial to getting the consistency you want with a traditional moqueca.
This is a light but filling stew or soup, and you need nothing more than a side salad and possibly some crusty bread to sop up the juices. Simple but elegant and extremely versatile. Change out the fish; add clams or mussels, swap the shrimp for lobster or even Louisiana crawfish tails. The fun of cooking in my eyes, is to be able to tailor a dish to suit your cravings and what’s fresh at the seafood counter.
Speaking of fresh, the nice guy at my local market no longer laughs when I ask to “smell” the shrimp or fish. You can tell right away whether fish and seafood is fresh. If it has a strong “fishy” or unpleasant odor, it will taste fishy, no matter what you do. We are extremely lucky here on the FIrst Coast to be so close to the ocean. Fresh Mayport shrimp are usually easy to find, and fresh fish of one kind or another is always available. I don’t buy the “previously frozen” fish or seafood. You’re much better off buying IQF or Individually Quick Frozen shrimp and fish fillets that have not been sitting in the seafood counter for who knows how long. It only takes a few minutes to thaw from frozen if that’s how you buy.
Fun Facts about Brasil:
Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world and spans 4 time zones.
Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, oranges and sugarcane.
Feijoada, a stew of beans with beef and pork is the national dish.
Coffee is definitely the National drink, and although specialty coffee drinks have made their presence known in Brazil, most Brazilians still drink it black and strong.
Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça (Brazilian rum made from sugarcane), sugar, and lime.
Dendê is an orange palm oil that is popular in Brazilian cooking. It’s orange color is due to the high beta carotene content.
Datil Zest Fresh From Florida Datil Pepper Seasoning with natural orange, lemon and lime won a 2019 Scovie Award for it’s unique taste and versatility as a table seasoning! You can’t go wrong with this blend. It’s perfect in just about everything you cook.
Datil Jerk Jamaican Seasoning blend combines St. Augustine’s flavorful little Datil Pepper with traditional Jamaican spices to create a seasoning that can also be used as a dry rub on meat, chicken, fish or vegetables. It won the prestigious Scovie Award two years in a row now!
Snake Bite Datil Pepper Hot Sauce is a 1st Place International Flavor Award Winner. It will tantalize your taste buds. A Louisiana style hot sauce made with fresh from St. Augustine Datil Peppers, it’s on the mild side, so you get that distinctive Datil Pepper taste without all the heat.
Venom Datil Pepper Hot Sauce has a more venomous bite. Venom is blended with twice the Datil Peppers along with orange habanero peppers. It’s hot, but definitely not over the top.
Spicy Brazilian Shrimp and Fish Stew (Moqueca)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time 15 minutes
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb firm white fish, cut into large pieces (halibut works well here, but cod or any other firm, thick white fish will work)
1 large sweet red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes, diced or 2 large fresh tomatoes, diced (about 1 ½ cup)
1 cup fish stock (may substitute vegetable stock)
1-2 Tablespoons Snake Bite or Venom Datil Pepper Hot Sauce (use less or more depending on the heat level you desire)
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tablespoons coconut oil (may substitute olive oil, or leave out altogether if you wish)
4 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste if desired
Lime wedges for serving
Place shrimp and fish pieces in a large bowl with 2 Tablespoons of lime juice, the Datil Zest and Datil Jerk, and half of the minced garlic. Stir gently to distribute the oil and spices.
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and bell pepper, and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the rest of the garlic, and cook, stirring frequently for another minute.
Add the tomatoes and their juice, fish or vegetable stock, Snake Bite or Venom Datil Pepper Hot Sauce, smoked paprika, coconut milk and the coconut oil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
Gently stir in the shrimp and fish, and simmer over low heat for 3-5 minutes, or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tablespoons of chopped cilantro.
Serve in bowls with rice, if desired.
Garnish with more cilantro and lime wedges.
Other fish and seafood can be substituted to change up the recipe. You might try sea bass, or even salmon. Swap out the shrimp with lobster or crawfish or even mussels.