Caruru (a Brazilian ritual dish)

On the 27th of September, Brazilians celebrate the festa of São Cosme e São Damião by eating carurú, a shrimp and okra stew. When people say they are having a carurú, they mean they’re serving this dish to guests to celebrate family and friendship. Our friends who run the Sou Digna program in Brazil do this every year, inviting students of all ages as well as neighbors.

For a simple okra side dish based on this recipe, see also Caruru — simple version.

Pronounced ka-roo-ROO, with the stress on the last syllable.

2 T olive oil
2 pounds fresh okra — look for young, tender pods
3 T dried shrimp or ground dried shrimp (available in Oriental markets)
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and uncooked
1/3 C roasted peanuts
2 T Brazilian palm oil, known as dende oil (available in Latin markets)
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t chili pepper flakes
Optional: 2 or 3 chopped, seeded tomatoes
3/4 C water
One bunch of cilantro
Salt and pepper

Cut the tops off the okra and chop them into small pieces. The cutting of the ingredients is part of the ritual, so the more people chopping, the better. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and saute the okra for two minutes, until golden. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Finely chop the peanuts, the dried shrimp, and the fresh shrimp and mix them together. The goal is a chunky paste, so you can do this in a food processor if you don’t have enough people chopping.

In a large skillet, heat the dende oil over medium heat. It’s a heavy oil and an acquired taste, so you may choose to use 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.

Saute the onion, garlic, and hot peppers until golden. If you like, you can add several chopped, seeded tomatoes at this point. Season with salt and pepper and add the shrimp paste. Pour in the water and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the reserved okra and heat through. Chop the cilantro leaves and sprinkle them over the top. Serve with rice, and pass tabasco sauce and toasted manioc flour for the top.

Serves 6 to 8.