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What is Caruru?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Caruru is a dish that originates from Brazil and is sometimes served in other countries. The primary ingredient is traditionally okra, with onion, shrimp, and toasted nuts added in lesser quantities. This food is often used as a condiment rather than a main dish, but both ways of eating this food are widespread. In Brazilian cuisine, caruru is often added to acarajé, which are deep-fried black-eyed peas normally sold as a street food. Caruru is also a town in Colombia, but this place has no relation to the food of the same name.

Traditional caruru recipes typically call for chopped okra, onion, and shrimp as the main ingredients. Some recipes require equal parts okra and shrimp. For example, one pound of each is common in these recipes. Toasted peanuts, cashews, or both are added to give the condiment or dish some crunch.

In other countries, such as the United States, caruru has many variations that are usually served as an entire meal by themselves. Most often, it is served as a stew or gumbo. Some Western recipes require unchopped okra, which eliminates the characteristic slimy texture of traditional caruru. Others add as many tomatoes as the dish has okra and shrimp. The main difference is that acarajé is a food specific to northeast Brazil and Nigeria, so caruru is usually not eaten as a condiment in other regions of the world.

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Most large ingredients are cooked separately before being combined to finish the dish. For example, the okra is seared with only spices like salt and pepper added to taste. Then the onion can be sauteed with other herbs, such as garlic and chili flakes. Once the shrimp, nuts, and other ingredients are added, the food is usually brought to a simmer on the stove. These steps can differ greatly depending on the recipe, but once all ingredients have been prepared, the dish usually takes less than 20 minutes to cook.

Caruru's ingredients are normally cooked in dende oil, which is a Brazilian palm oil. Other cooking oils, like West African palm oil, are too heavy to cook this dish in. If Brazilian palm oil is not available, the cook may substitute half west African palm oil with vegetable oil. Some cooking oils, particularly ones commonly found in China, also reportedly work well for cooking these ingredients. There is no cooking oil substitute to acquire the exact flavor of the traditional dish, however.

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