Good Friday Fish

Pirarucu ao Coco - Pirarucu in Coconut Milk - Pirarucu w mleku kokosowym

Pirarucu in Coconut Milk – Pirarucu w mleku kokosowym

Bank holidays on Good Friday? No! No, you don’t have it in Poland. It is a normal working day, so you don’t celebrate it with a special meal, you simply go to the church and traditionally keep the fast. The strictest fast within the whole year was on Good Friday. You could have some potatoes and salted herrings but usually people didn’t eat anything. Actually, in Poland each Friday was Friday Fast, meaning meatless Friday when I was at the school’s age, hmmm… some years ago. The school lunch (what we call dinner, actually) on Fridays was always fish or some sweet kind of dish like crepes with sweet cottage cheese or rice with apples and strawberry sauce. Keep in mind that still around 90% of Polish are Catholics.

Hmmm… Have you had the ‘meatless, fish or sweet Friday’ in your canteens?

Paradoxically, instead of Good Friday, Easter Monday is bank holiday in Poland called as well wet Monday (lany poniedziałek) or Śmigus-dyngus – having origins in pagan times where the farewell of winter was celebrated. This day is a favourite Easter day of kids and teenagers since they can have some fun in throwing water over, originally girls, nowadays each other. If you are in Poland on Easter Monday be especially careful walking on the streets until the midday unless you want to get totally wet in the cold, spring day.

Brazil is far, far away from those wet Monday pagan rituals 😉 and is celebrating Good Friday (bank holiday) with ‘bacalhau’ – dried and salted cod that Portuguese brought to this country. I, however, was lucky to get some nice, dried and salted piece of ‘bacalhau da Amazônia‘ – pirarucu (arapaima), directly from Belem in Amazonas from my Portuguese teacher, so we could cook this festive dish together. You can use salted or fresh cod in the recipe, too.

Pirarucu in Coconut Milk - Pirarucu w mleku kokosowym

Preparation: Pirarucu in Coconut Milk – Pirarucu w mleku kokosowym

Ila’s Amazonian ‘Pirarucu ao Coco’


  • 500g dried and salted pirarucu (arapaima) (2 days earlier put in the cold water, keep refrigerated and change every hour or few hours water to removed the excess of salt, you can sleep, however, during the night ;)), cut in bigger cubes, in Amazonia they left the skin on the fish if it has it for the better taste, however, I would remove the skin since the taste and smell is quite strong
  • 1-2 medium onions chopped in cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of canola/sunflower
  • ½ bunch of coriander (stalks and roots finely chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dendê Oil (Azeite-de-dendê) (strong aroma oil from African Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis), native to West Africa, brought to Brazil by African slaves)
  • 1 big sweet pepper (red, yellow or green, or mixture), cut in cubes
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and cut in cubes
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 200-300 g (to your liking) small onions
  • 200-300 g (to your liking) small potatoes
  • Cooked hen or quail eggs (optional)
  • Green olives (optional)
  • Spinach (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in the big pan or pot, fry the onions almost to the golden stage but don’t golden them, add the garlic when the onion is soft and sweet
  2. Add chopped stalks and roots of coriander, ‘dende’ oil, tomatoes and sweet pepper, keep the heat very low
  3. Add pirarucu chunks when the vegetables become soft, keep on the very low heat, cover (I didn’t have a proper cover, so I didn’t do that and it turned out delicious, anyway)
  4. Cook everything ca. 5 minutes and add coconut milk
  5. Take out some liquid from the pan and cook the small onions in it
  6. Cook potatoes separately
  7. If meanwhile the fish is ready, turn off the heat and wait until onions and potatoes are ready
  8. Mix all – fish, potatoes, onions and if using eggs, olives and spinach, heat it to serve it hot with the coriander leaves.
Pirarucu in Coconut Milk - Pirarucu w mleku kokosowym

Pirarucu in Coconut Milk – Pirarucu w mleku kokosowym