Acarajé is the crown jewel of the food you can buy from street vendors in Salvador da Bahia—you can get it everywhere in the streets. Like most dishes from Afro-Bahian cuisine, this sacred, delicious dish is closely linked to the candomblé beliefs. It is prepared in terreiros as an offering to the Orixá Iansã, corresponding to St. Barbara. Normally it is only prepared by santeros.
In Yoruba, a Nigerian language, Acarajé means “eat ball of fire.” It is a bun made of a mass of black beans, feijão fradinho, which is usually filled with prawns and a spicy chili sauce.
In the colonial period, former female slaves used to sell Acarajé in the streets in the evenings, carrying it in baskets or on trays on their head, or as an offering to saints in feasts related to candomblé. Now you can find women selling it in the streets of Salvador and other cities in the state of Bahia, and occasionally in other regions in Brazil.
The Baianas do Acarajé are the women who sell Acarajé and other delicious dishes from the Bahian cuisine out in the streets.
This is how many women from Bahia earn their upkeep, dedicated to an occupation that is passed on from one generation to the next. They are easily recognized by their traditional white attire consisting of long, airy skirts, head turbans and colorful necklaces dedicated to their Orixás.
Acarajé was recognized as part of the World’s Cultural Heritage in 2005, thanks to which the Bahianas do Acarajé got the recognition they deserve.
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