The Tastiest Fish To Use When Making Brazilian Moqueca

Top-down view of Brazilian Moqueca in a bowl
Top-down view of Brazilian Moqueca in a bowl - Foodio/Shutterstock

For chowder lovers looking for a different twist on fish soup, there's perhaps no better dish to explore than Brazilian moqueca. This seafood stew with Afro-Brazilian roots originated in the northeastern state of Bahia, Brazil, and features a rich broth of coconut milk, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilies, onions, lime juice, and fresh herbs. For the seafood portion, traditional recipes from northern Brazil use shrimp along with a local river fish called filhote, which is a type of catfish that can grow to weigh over 200 pounds. But as with many types of seafood soup, moqueca is highly adaptable and there are several varieties of fish that will provide a delicious final dish.

As a lover of exploring cuisines from around the world in my own kitchen, I stumbled across moqueca more than a decade ago while searching for new ways to use up some pantry staples (namely, canned tomatoes and coconut milk). The satisfying stew is one of those dishes that serves up impressively while being deceptively simple to make — in other words, the best kind of dish to serve to company. My own seafood go-to is to use solely shrimp for its simplicity, since you can use it frozen, but in a nod to the other seafoods included in traditional preparations, the options below fall firmly into the vertebrate fish category.

Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish

Select A Fish That Holds Up In Both Texture And Taste

Two whole fish with herbs and spices
Two whole fish with herbs and spices - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

The main thing to keep in mind when using seafood in any type of soup or stew is that you want a fish that won't disintegrate when cooked using the simmer method. For this reason, smaller, more delicate fish such as herring and yellow perch aren't optimal, as you're more likely to end up with fish mush (yuck). As a rule of thumb, any fish that holds up well to frying should work well. When it comes to Brazilian moqueca, you may also want to avoid fish in the salmon category, such as sockeye or trout, since their strong flavor can overpower the delicate balance of the dish.

Instead, go for a firm, neutral white fish that will readily take on the sweetness of the coconut, tartness of the tomatoes and lime, and smokiness of the peppers. One of the most popular fish to use in moqueca in the United States is cod, and for good reason. It's easy to find, and its mild flavor and firm texture hold up well in all types of soups and stews. Another delicious choice is halibut, which offers a delicate flavor that melds beautifully with the salt, acid, and heat of the moqueca. Other tasty favorites for the spicy stew include tilapia, haddock, snapper , or mahi mahi.

Two final things to consider are the cut of the fish and whether to use fresh or frozen fish. For the cut, a steak or filet is your best bet since they're easy to find and will hold up well in a simmer. Just cut them into cubes and you're good to go. The latter is a matter of personal preference and simplicity, but both fresh and frozen fish will lead to a tasty result, so don't be afraid to experiment to discover what works best for you.

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