Brazilian Fish and Coconut Milk Stew (Moqueca)
Moqueca, a traditional Brazilian fish stew, takes different forms throughout the country; this version, from Bahia, originally made with a local fish, is enriched with coconut milk and palm oil, a traditionally West African cooking fat. Its vibrant red color is the product of a high concentration of beta carotene. If you can’t find it, coconut oil makes a fine, albeit colorless, substitute.
In Salvador, Brazil, a festival honors the sea goddess Iemanjá, ensuring that there will always be an abundance of fish
What You Will Need
- 3 medium cloves garlic, smashed
- 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 whole red snapper (about 2-3 lb.), gutted, scaled, cleaned, and cut across the spine into 2-inch-thick steaks
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 tbsp. palm oil
- 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded, and sliced
- 1⁄2 cup cilantro leaves and thin stems, coarsely chopped
- 3 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- White or coconut rice, for serving Molho Lambão, for serving (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Add the fish and turn the pieces to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 30 minutes.
- In a large, high-sided skillet set over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the fish with its marinade and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated, 15–30 seconds. Add the palm oil and onion and cook, stirring, until the onion just begins to soften, 15–20 seconds. Add the coconut milk and 1 cup water; raise the heat to bring the liquid to a low boil, then lower the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring and turning the fish occasionally, taking care not to break it apart, until the onions are tender and the fish is cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Add the peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and scallions; cover and cook until the peppers are softened slightly, about 4 minutes more. Season with more salt as needed to taste.
- Serve hot with white or coconut rice and the molho lambão, if using.