Brazil inherited more than just a language from its portuguese colonial masters. In the runup to Easter, supermarket shelves will be laden with stacks of one of the most popular – and most pungent – of Portuguese imports: bacalhau, or salt-cod.
The importance of bacalhau in both the diets and economy of Portugal date back as far as the late-1400s, when the Portuguese, along with the Basques and the Vikings, are thought to have been fishing for cod as far away as Canada. Salting the cod was a convenient way to preserve the fish, but it has since become a major part of both portuguese and Brazilian culinary heritage.
Good Friday, a traditionally meat-free day for Catholics, sees the culmination of this national obsession, with families tucking in to regional variations such as Espirito Santo’s torta capixaba – a salt-cod and seafood egg pie.
Prices often soar in the runup to Easter as shoppers rush to get their hands on a chunk of this expensive, and increasingly rare luxury – it’s no secret that overfishing has put cod on the WWF endangered species list, as of 2000; so if you’re ever going to eat a morsel of it, the easter weekend is as good a time as any. Here are a few suggestions on where to find it.
Where to sample bacalhau
For a traditional Portuguese take on bacalhau, Ora Pois (Rua Fidalga 408, Vila Madalena, 3815 8224, orapoisrestaurante.com.br) in Vila Madalena, with more than five different cod dishes on its à la carte menu, and Adega Santiago (Rua Sampaio Vidal 1072, Jardim Paulista, 3081 5211, adegasantiago.com.br) are both good bets, the latter serving a delicious bacalhau com broa – roasted cod with a crunchy breaded topping.
The most popular dish at Mediterranean restaurant O Pote do Rei (Rua Joaquim Antunes 224, Pinheiros, 3068 9888, opotedorei.com) is bacalhau a moura encantada, where cod cosies up to mashed potato and caramelised onions.
On Easter Sunday, Serafina (Alameda Lorena 1705, Jardim Paulista, 3081 3702, serafinarestaurante.com.br), with tables filling its large outside terrace, will be serving homemade fresh squid-ink taglioni with strips of cod, green olives and tomatoes.
For an oriental twist, Marakuthai (Alameda Itu 1618, Jardim Paulista, 3062 7556, marakuthai.com.br) will be serving cod with sweet potato and a Thai basil and coconut milk sauce.
For something a bit more informal, head for Bar Léo (Rua Aurora 100, Santa Ifigênia, 3221 0247, barleo.com.br) for the delicious deep-fried salty cod balls – bolinhos de bacalhau – a firm boteco favourite.
And if you're feeling inspired to attempt to make your own bacalhau dish at home, stock up on the raw ingredient any time of year, at the Mercadão.