Listen to my conversation about Muqueca with Morning Edition host Bob Seay on WGBH 89.7 FM
BOSTON — When I visit Inman Square, I always feel like I am going to discover something that I can’t find any place else. It may be a one-of-a-kind vintage dress or a new book or hard-to-find spices and ingredients. This cozy neighborhood, half a mile from the nearest T station, is loaded with unique and independently-owned retail businesses. The flags and businesses that reflect the Portuguese and Brazilian influence in Cambridge also distinguish Inman Square.
A few blocks east of Inman Square's center, past the Midwest Grill, a popular Brazilian barbeque restaurant, is Chef Fátima Langa and her restaurant, Muqueca. When Chef Fatima, or Fafa for short, came to Cambridge from New York in 1999, she wanted to serve Brazilian food that was not yet offered in the Boston area. Fafa decided to serve the food that she loves and knows best; food from the eastern coastal state of Espirito Santo in Brazil and its capital, Vitoria, where Fafa grew up.
The cuisine is not the only part of Muqueca that reflects the Brazilian coast. When you enter Muqueca's doors it is as if you are escaping to the tropics. The restaurant is decorated with bright colors and paintings. The bar boasts many Brazilian juices including acai, cupuacu, and acerola juices. And there on a pedestal as you walk in is a clay pot imported from Brazil. The pot is used to cook moqueca, the Brazilian seafood stew the restaurant is named after. Much like cooking with seasoned cast iron, the moqueca pot lends a distinctive flavor to any dish that is prepared with it.
Like her restaurant and her neighborhood, Chef Fafa has a unique personality. She is such a generous person. You may notice in the episode how Fafa does not just prepare enough for the two of us to eat, she prepares enough for at least six people! Of course, she wanted to showcase some of Muqueca's signature dishes, but she was also very determined that everyone from the Neighborhood Kitchens crew would leave her restaurant well fed. I mean, just look at those huge moqueca pots filled to the brim with haddock and shrimp! And when Fafa learned that I wanted to improve my knife skills, she actually took the time to teach me how to quickly and easily dice onions and tomatoes finely. At the end of the day, she even chased after me when she realized that I had forgotten to take an additional slice of Tapioca Cuscuz home with me.
Perhaps that friendly and nurturing spirit is just Fafa’s personality—but I have known enough Brazilians to know that it is also e o jeitinho brasileiro—the Brazilian way.
Watch Neighborhood Kitchens online find out more about Muqueca, part of Inman Square in Cambridge.
VISIT NEIGHBORHOOD KITCHENS