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My souperinspiration: Mocofava my version
Mocotó and Chef Rodrigo Oliveira
“I never wanted to do fine dining,” Oliveira says. “Nothing against Jardíns. But I wanted an inclusive kitchen, not an exclusive one.”
Tell me, how do you act around a chef whom you are meeting for the first time, but whose wise words and rise-to-fame story you have memorised like the alphabet because you are such a great fan of his? Flailing with excitement, we literally skipped into Mocotó, a casual restaurant in the north of São Paulo, a 50-min car ride from where we were. Out came Chef Rodrigo Oliveira, towering above everybody else with his lanky frame. One of the most celebrated young chefs in Brazil, his accolades can be intimidating to any fledgling restaurateur or chef. But for all the success he has today, you will find no airs, just humility and passion.
At Mocotó, ingredients are pared down to the basics, but blended with the intense flavours of Brazilian cooking and contemporary concepts. “Tradition in evolution is innovation,” and his deft updating of time-honoured recipes has proven to be a roaring hit. The greatness in his food lies in his ability to stay true to his roots, yet bringing a masterful balance of surprise and tradition that draws food-lovers to the lesser known cuisine of the north-east. Over dishes and pots of Mocotó’s offerings, we spent a languid afternoon centered around food. We are inspired by his use of cassava in the dishes,and can’t wait to try it back in Singapore!
Imagine my delight when I realised we share the same love for “one-pot” food! And he emphasised the beauty of eating as a social act that helps to cement a connection of
shared moments spent around the table. Indeed, there is so much more joy in digging into big pots and ladling the goodness on plates around the table, than to work on an elaborate individual dish placed in front of you that isn’t designed for sharing. Nothing against fine dining, but simplicity is luxurious, as I have come to realise from his words. When Chef Rodrigo speaks, you can’t help but be inspired and feel all fuzzed up inside. He’s a firm believer that food is a common language that connects people and creates an inclusive environment that sets prejudice aside.
Mocofava and Mocotó
Mocotó (Brazilian Portuguese: [moko’tɔ]) is a Brazilian dish made from cow’s feet stewed with beans and vegetables. The name is derived from the Kimbundu mbokotó. Ingredients in prepared mocotó may include beans, onion, garlic or cilantro. This traditional Brazilian recipe for a thick soup made with calf’s foot (mocotó) is one of those soups that nourishes, fills and warms up whoever eats it. In Brazil, this soup is considered to be a restorative pick-me-up, and Brazilians are accustomed to eating it at the very end of a night out to ward off a hangover, or first thing in the morning to deal with the ills of having over-indulged or simply to prime the pump for the day’s activities ahead. Like many traditional dishes, caldo de mocotó has as many recipes as there are cooks who can make it. Everyone has their own tricks and secret ingredients. And as anyone can tell you, no one knows how to make caldo de mocotó better than their own mother and in Chef Rodrigo’s case, his father’s recipe has to be the best. Through our conversation, he shares the way it was being made and how tedious it was as there was a need to keep boiling the cow’s foot till it is tender and releases the collagen. The cowfoot would have to be chopped into pieces before returning it to the pot for a second round of cooking with fava beans and mashed cassava. But everything was worth it, when customers smiled, enjoyed his food heartily. A single spoon of mocofava transports one immediately to the backlands of Brazil and to many this is COMFORT FOOD 100% ,reminding many of their childhood memories and their loved ones.
Mocofava my version
Massimo Bottura, an icon and a heavyweight in the culinary world once said ” Innovation is tradition in evolution”. It all makes sense now reading this. We all build reference points and these reference points are stored in our taste memory bank helping us create and innovate new recipes. Recipes can evolve from something we once had or a combination of reference points building into something new. Through this experience of dining at Mocotó and eating Chef Rodrigo’s mocofava, I have built a new reference point and this is now stored in my taste memory bank. I can vividly remember how it first tasted in my mouth and I want to recreate this taste and build on it. Our version is made by cooking chicken feet for 12 hours, extracting the collagen and using it as our soup base. From Catalunya, I have learnt the technique of adding carrot puree while making Escudella. Combining this with the collagen, mashed cassava, great northern beans, coriander, we have created a new version, not better but different. Chef Rodrigo, thank you for inspiring me!
Ingredients: marinated chicken thigh, collagen chicken stock, great northern beans, carrots, cassava, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potato, leek, spices, coriander, onions, garlic, green bell peppers, chicken sausages.
Condiment: soft boiled egg and chopped spring onion
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