This dish, which takes its origins from the Brazilian state of Bahia, is literally a Carnivale for the palate. It begins with a base of beef chuck, fried beef, and sausage eventually thickened with okra and toasted mandioca (cassava) flour. The fiery salsa offsets the richness of the dish perfectly while adding a pleasant crunchy texture. As Bill Hader’s character “Stefon” on SNL would say, this dish “has it all.”
A few notes for cooks who do not have access to proper Brazilian markets:
Traditionally the stew calls for Carne Seca (dried beef) to compliment the beef chuck. I could not locate the Brazilian style of the dried beef, so I substituted a thick, meaty jerky. I reconstituted it for over 6 hours, changing the water a few times. In hindsight, I would say that omitting it and merely using more beef chuck would be preferable if you cannot locate the real thing.
Again, I could not source Calabreza, the traditional Brazilian smoked sausage with roots in Calabrian cuisine. In the end, Portuguese Linguica was a perfectly acceptable substitute.
Lastly, Bahian cuisine usually features Malagueta chili pepper. Again, I could not source them, so I pinch-hit with Thai Bird chilies, which fit the bill nicely.
If there is one thing not to omit or substitute in this dish, it is the Dende Oil. Even if you can’t find the Brazilian brands, any African Red Palm oil will do.