Authentic Brazilian Cuisine
A Tale of a Pumpkin From the Past written by: jay hornbrook
For dining enthusiasts familiar with the many exquisite flavors of authentic Brazilian cuisine one selection which is among the unique is Camarão na Moranga. Considered to be a comfort food among the Brazil population the dish marries the seasonal favorite pumpkin with a delightfully creamy seafood stew. Perfectly seasoned shrimp are a highlight of the traditionally prepared item which is presented in an impressive backdrop featuring actual pumpkins serving as bowls for the delicious one of a kind treat. For authentic recipes passed down through several generations, only a select few restaurants in NY feature Brazilian dining as it was originally intended. One standout, considered to be the best restaurant in NY by multiple food critics as well as many who are native to Brazil is Manhattan’s Emporium Brasil.
Camarão na Moranga at Emporium Brasil is more of an event than a simple meal. Exactly like the other genuine tastes of Brazil from the menu served as they have been for many decades the story behind the dish and the tradition passed down through the generations remain entirely intact. Many who miss the meals lovingly prepared by their South American ancestors who have long passed feel at home next to NY locals who are just beginning to discover the magic of Brazilian dining. In the heart of that most modern, exists a spirit of generations past but not forgotten and many authentically crafted Brazilian dishes remain alive on the menu as word of their survival is rapidly spreading in the form of a celebratory welcome by the Manhattan’s restaurant lovers.
As it is with many great Brazilian inventions, the legend and story behind its origin are what make them special. Camarão na Morango, (translated as “shrimp in pumpkin”) is not an exception to that age old tradition, and the pride stemming from its birth as a national dining treasure have carried it around the world to many countries, and today it lives on in Manhattan. To fully grasp the way the presentation was designed to dazzle the eyes as well as the taste buds and recapture the nuance surrounding the original plating it is necessary to travel back in time through a few generations.
It was in Sao Paulo, Brazil during the 1940’s when the dish originated as a conversation piece and when served in all of its glory the authentically flavored creamy seafood stew impressed those who traveled and dined at the coastal restaurants of Brazil. There is much more to the story than just the preparation and ingredients or a recipe written on a piece of paper. For authentic flavors of Old Brazil, one needs to open their mind and allow a little bit of pure old-fashioned magic to infiltrate the modernized hustle of today. Taking time to escape from the race of life as it is currently paced and breathe in the majesty of a tradition which knows no hurry is required to taste the love of authentic Brazilian dining.
The Pumpkin From the Sea
Long ago a pumpkin appeared from the sea in front of Mrs. Zenaide’s restaurant. Surprised by the event and taken by the beauty of the mysterious floating fruit she set out to make a pumpkin stew to celebrate the occasion. She carefully placed the pumpkin to cook all day in a clay pot, but Mrs. Zenaide was unaware of the real magic which was concealed inside. When the pumpkin was opened, there were more than two kilos of seven-bearded shrimp.
Being the excellent cook that she was a decision was made to trade the seeds for green scents, coriander, garlic, tomato, onion and boil the mixture. Camarão na Moranga, another typical dish of the Cajara cuisine was born. The unique and delicious offering became the most famous of all at the Zenaide restaurant in Enseada Beach, Brazil. For generations the majesty has been passed along to various areas of the globe. From the best restaurant in Brazil around the world and now to the best restaurant in NY the tradition has been handed with care.
“Great experience all around” Great steak and sides (and dessert!), very attentive wait staff and atmosphere was very nice but comfortable. Had a traditional Brazilian cocktail.
For seven decades the famed Camarão na Moranga has been wandering the earth as restaurants attempt to replicate the original grandeur which sprang from the sea on that one fine day. Modification and variation and a little bit more of this and a little bit less of that over time have sacrificed the soul which was once precise and carefully preserved as it was handed down by the loving words of one generation of great Brazilian cooks to another. Recently tiny pumpkins started popping up as a spin on the original concept, and the tiny little fruits were filled with something far from the taste of that which once was and was always meant to be.
As with many family recipes which become lost through the ages of time the delivery to the masses results in a transformation from what was intended in the purest form to what can be pieced together by guess work and modernized culinary procedures. At a select few places like Emporium Brasil in New York the pumpkin has been lovingly handed down through the generations along with many other “word of mouth” cultural creations which are known exclusively to those who made it their mission to preserve the experience which is worthy of their family name.
As with the many forms of art, each one has its individual characteristics but all of them from painting to poetry from sculpting to skating and from dancing to dining share in their ability to stir the soul with something which can only be felt but never seen. Much like the inspirational musical collection Kinderszenen, ( scenes from childhood by Schumann), which bring back the loving memories of childhood through music which pours into the soul and paints pictures from the past, Old Brazil is a culinary dream now preserved. It takes a lot to be recognized by many as the best restaurant in NY and it is a title earned each and every day. Through the careful crafting of dishes first experienced as a child in “Brasil,” the team at Emporium Brasil turn back time upon entering the doorway. The flavors of a country spelled differently with an “s” represent only a fraction of the differences experienced during an experience that is equal parts dining and time travel.