The first time you try acarajé, you might want to close your eyes; the sight of fried black-eyed peas and bread covered in an orange shrimp sauce isn't the most appetizing. But if you can get past the appearance of these traditional stuffed Afro-Brazilian falafels, you’ll be met with the rich, savory taste of one of Bahia’s best-known delicacies.
In L.A., acarajé is almost impossible to find, partially because of its obscurity in the United States and partially because of how time-consuming it is to make. We could track down only one spot that offers acarajé daily. That spot is Sabor da Bahia, a catering company in Culver City's Brazilian Mall, which has a take-away lunch menu.
Founded and run by Brazilian duo Reni Flores and Ilma Wright, Sabor da Bahia is as authentic as you can get, down to the traditional all-white outfits the cooks wear during business hours, typical of food vendors in Bahia. To prepare acarajé, the cooks soak, clean and peel the skin off the black-eyed peas, a process that takes hours. The peas then are mixed with onions in a food processor until fine, formed into rounded balls and fried in palm oil. When ready to serve, the acarajé is sliced in half and filled with vatapa, an orange paste made of shrimp, okra, ground cashews, spices and coconut milk. The result is like a fusion of falafel and hushpuppy, stuffed with a fish stew.
Like much of the food in the city of Bahia, the food prepared at Sabor da Bahia is crafted with care and made with love. The cooks believe the emotions felt by the person preparing the food is as important as the ingredients, which is why they make their food slowly, with good energy.
Sabor da Bahia also sells abara, the tamale version of acarajé, as well as cocada preta and moqueca de camarao.
Sabor da Bahia is located inside Brazilian Market, 10826 Venice Blvd., (310) 841-2729.