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Dr. Tim's Acai Smoothie and Acai Bowl Recipes

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Dr. Tim's Adventure with Acai Berry Juice

Euterpe Oleracea or Acai is all the rage still. It is a Portuguese word pronounced Ah-sah-yee and is a date palm berry that grows on the palm tree by the same name. Recently I was walking down the streets of Belem, Para in Brasil. Belem is a city that sits on the banks of one of the estuaries of the great Amazon River near where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

The sun isn’t up yet but the sky begins to light up in anticipation of the sun breaching the eastern horizon. I make my way pass the famous Ver-O-Peso market. It is the largest open air market in the region and sits on the edge of the dock next to the Amazon tributary the Para River. Here I see row upon row of fresh fish caught just this morning from the Amazon as they bring it up the dock and distribute the varieties to the many stalls. Piracu is a very large fish commonly found in these markets. The smell of fresh fish lying on tables is overwhelming. Also seen in this market are the stacks of cages containing live poultry and game birds. You can pick up fresh fruits and vegetables also as they seem plentiful. I watch over the side of the dock as workers push large wheelbarrows full of fresh bananas up the steep ramps to the market.

Although the different varieties of fish from the massive piracu to the smaller but very ferocious piranha are so interesting to look at I am here in search of Acai. As I wind my way through the different stalls leaving the fish area and passing into the fruit and vegetable area I catch a glimpse of the large woven baskets brimming with dark purple to black berries. I expect to smell a sweet aroma but am surprised when I am not greeted by my expectation of this famous little fruit. Instead the smell of this fruit is rather earthy and fresh. I put my hand into one of the baskets and realize that these fruits are not really berries at all. Although they are the size of a blueberry they are hard. Just handling the fruit turns my fingers a very dark purple color. I squeeze one of the acai fruits but no juice leaves the fruit. I scrape off some of the tough outer skin to find a very thin oily inner flesh surrounding what seems to be an enormous seed for the size of the berry.

I take an acai fruit and put it to my mouth first tasting it with my tongue then trying to nibble away at the tough outer shell to get a better sense of the fruit. At first taste I am disappointed because it seems rather tasteless. Then as I nibble away I sense a very raw avocado like flavor which catches me totally by surprise. The mostly toothless vendor, who has been watching me first with intrigue and suspicion breaks out laughing as I pursue my taste test of the acai berry fruit. He then tells me in his hillbilly Portuguese that I am doing it all wrong. He says I need to buy enough acai to put into a blender of sorts and separate the seed from the fruit. After that add some water to it and eat it with shrimp. No sooner than he finishes with his instruction does he then tell me to go around the corner where there is an acai shop where they will prepare it fresh for me to eat. He then tosses me a pear and wishes me luck.

I cross the busy street as the sun is rising in the early morning sky towards a row of shops. The smell of fresh Brazilian coffee is thick in the air. I pass by a coffee shop where the men line up to drink this black sludge like coffee in shot glasses. Up ahead I see a sign “Acaizeiro” or Acai shop. I find it so curious that they have shops dedicated to making and selling fresh Acai.

I reach the Acai shop and find it to be very busy with business men and housewives standing in line to place their orders. It is a rather austere setting with a couple of plastic tables and chairs near the opening of the shop. The floors and walls are tiled. There is a small woven triangular sign hanging high on one wall with the word acai printed on it. To the back of the shop is a small but very functional open kitchen. Below the stainless steel counters are baskets of fresh Acai covered by only a napkin. I watch as the people place their orders and then wait for the shop keeper to measure out the right amount of fresh Acai then place it into a blender. She then adds some water to it. She removes the seeds using a strainer and the result is a purple paste which she puts into a plastic baggie then wraps it in brown paper. She weighs the small brown package and come up with a price. The patrons pay and then promptly leave.

Finally it is my turn. The shop keeper is a rather diminutive older lady who in spite of her age works quickly and efficiently. I place my order and within minutes it is ready. She seems particularly pleased that a “gringo” has come to her shop. Instead of a baggie she puts my fresh Acai into a bowl and points me to the tables in the front of the shop. As I sit down she comes by the table and deposits a larger bowl of fresh boiled shrimp. I begin eating by first peeling the shrimp then dipping it into the acai. To my surprise the shrimp acai mixture is absolutely delicious. Again the taste is somewhat reminiscent of an avocado-like dip. With the shrimp now eaten I still have a fair amount of the Acai in my bowl.. The shop keeper comes by the table again and drops off some honey and motions to me to put the honey into the remaining Acai. I am a little skeptical but follow her instructions. My first taste of this sweetened Acai sends my taste buds into delight as this purple porridge has transformed into an incredible desert. It now tastes like a mysterious berry with a hint of chocolate.

Acai seems like a very important part of the Brazilian diet here in the Northern part of Brazil. With Acai shops and fresh acai in the market place the Brazilians use Acai as a sustaining food source. Acai is truly amazing as it can be used as a savory and a sweet dish, in juices and jams and in ice creams. No wonder the world is falling in love with this little purple fruit.