The Influence Of Nigerian Cuisine In Brazil – From Birth To Pain, To Freedom

The Influence Of Nigerian Cuisine In Brazil – From Birth To Pain, To Freedom

On the surface, Brazil and Nigeria may seem like they have nothing in common, but if you look a little deeper, they have many more connections than you think!

Brazil Naija map
Source: Wikipedia

In the 16th century, an estimated 4.9 million African slaves were taken from their home countries and entered the Americas through Brazil during the transatlantic slave trade. Salvador, registered as a World Heritage site by UNESCO is the capital of Bahia (the 4th-largest Brazilian state) and was a hub for the slave trade.

Bahia
Image source: Pixabay

Food was a large part of the process of remembrance, preserving cultural identity and reconnecting to African roots. Today in Brazil, you’ll find popular street foods such as Acarajé which has roots from the Brazilian African slaves. Acarajé is a fritter or fried bean cake made from black eye peas and is deep-fried in dendê (palm oil). Bahian women can be found preparing and selling Acarajé in the vibrant streets of Bahia. Acarajé is sliced into two, stuffed with prawns, vatapa and caruru, pastes made from nuts, onions, okra, coconut milk and palm oil. 

Baiana
Source: Culture Trip

For most of its history, the technique of making acarajé was transmitted orally from generation to generation. Acarajé was first sold commercially during colonial times by freed slaves. These sales became an important source of income for former slaves after the abolition of slavery in 1886; Flavors of Brazil. Acarajé serves as both a religious offering to the gods in the Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion) and as street food. Acarajé came to Brazil from Nigeria, where it is known as Akara and is commonly eaten for breakfast or as street food. It’s a lot smaller in size compared to Akaraje and it isn’t stuffed with other ingredients. It’s not always fried in palm oil and it’s typically served with sliced bread or ogi (fermented corn pudding). Akara is from the Yoruba’s (an ethnic group in Nigeria) but you can find it mostly across Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. Akara is my favourite comfort breakfast and although I don’t eat it often, I like to enjoy mine with freshly baked soft agege bread. 

Akara
Source: Food Kravings

When you are lost and in pain, you want to connect to something that brings familiarity and comfort. Food and religion were a source of comfort in the midst of pain for the Afro-Brazilian slaves. I can’t even imagine what these slaves went through but I’m glad they found comfort and memories in the food that reminded them of their motherland, Africa. Afro-Brazilian culture has always been resilient, now they rise in hope and freedom.

Per Ardua Surgo – I rise through adversity. These are the Latin words written in Bahia’s official coat of arms.

Have you tried Akara or Acarajé?  How do you reconnect to your roots? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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3 Comments

  1. April 14, 2021 / 11:06 am

    I really wanna know what Akara or Acarajé tastes like so bad! I hope to journey to Brazil and other countries in South America in the near future to try!

    • April 19, 2021 / 3:31 pm

      It tastes amazing! Akara is one of my favourites breakfasts with hardo bread.

      Fingers cross when it’s safer to travel, you can explore Brazil and other South American countries.

      Thanks for reading xx

    • August 5, 2021 / 12:05 am

      Oo you have got to try it one day!
      Akara is my favourite Nigerian breakfast 😋

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