Brazilian cuisine: How to cook Pirarucu

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While pirarucu, a giant freshwater river fish found in the Amazon basin, is filled with centuries of history and culture, today it is one of the most traditional dishes prepared for Brazilian celebrations and parties. It’s salty, sweet, and extremely local to this region of Brazil.

Fish prep

Start prepping one day before by cutting the salted pirarucu fish into smaller bite sized pieces and soak in cold water. Place in the refrigerator. The pirarucu should be soaked for at least 24 hours, and you should change the water frequently, at least five times.

The next day, drain the water from the fish and place on paper towel to dry. Set aside. Once the fish has dried, lightly fry in olive oil until they begin to flake up and become tender. Let cool and set aside again.

Prep work

Chop the potatoes into cubes and cover with water in a pot. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 15 minutes, or until it becomes tender. Remove from heat and drain the liquid to let cool.

Heat vegetable oil in a medium size heavy saucepan. Peel and slice the bananas into thick slices. Once the vegetable oil is hot, deep-fry the banana slices. The bananas should fry for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel and set aside.

Sauté and assemble

In another large frying pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Throw in the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the potatoes, peas, olives, tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes become soft.

In a separate bowl, combine two tablespoons of olive oil, manioc flour, hard-boiled eggs, parsley, green onion and coconut milk. Heat until the flour absorbs the liquid. Stir so that the mixture is well combined. Transfer to a large baking dish and evenly cover the manioc flour mixture. On top decoratively place the fish, layer with the banana slices and sautéed potatoes. Serve warm immediately.


500g / 1lb pirarucu, dried and salted (substitute salt cod if no pirarucu is available) 500 ml / 2 cups coconut milk, unsweetened 200ml / ¾ cup olive oil 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped 100g / 8oz pitted green and black olives 4 ripe bananas 500g / 1lb potatoes, washed and peeled 250g / ½ lb frozen peas 5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced 1 large yellow onion, diced 5 cloves garlic, finely minced Handful fresh parsley, chopped 1 green onion, chopped 500 ml / 2 cups vegetable oil 250g / 1/2 lb manioc flour