Decades ago Dona Thereza made her culinary imprint on coxinha, one of the most favored snack foods of Brazil, according to locals like Paula Malta. The coxinha, a fried treat filled with chicken thigh meat, was developed and reworked by Thereza to give it a unique Brazilian flare. Malta, who once owned a catering company in Brazil, said Thereza's twist on the snack quickly caught on and her alterations to the ingredients stuffed inside coxinha have spread throughout the country.
Thereza opened her restaurant Doce Docê in the 1970s in Belo Horizonte in eastern Brazil and her version of the coxinha quickly became an established variation of the snack. The coxinha was constructed in the shape of the original ingredient, chicken thighs, and although the shape hasn’t changed much, the ingredients inside have been reworked.
Thereza’s version of the coxinha still uses chicken in one variety but includes catupiry cheese; a dense cream cheese-like mixture that has more a of a soft cow’s milk brie taste to it. Her other varieties that have gained popularity are filled with just catupiry or shrimp according to Malta.
But further adaptations of coxinha have become increasingly popular throughout Brazil, with most originating from the state of Minas Gerais to the Southeast. These variations include tomato sauce, onion, parsley, potato, or manioc — a root vegetable also known as yucca. A version called coxinha mineira uses corn as the main ingredient.
The outer shell is thick, similar to a mixture of batter and dough, made of wheat flour, water, and salt with some variations including seasoning for extra flavor.
In the 1990’s Doce Docê closed their doors but Thereza’s coxinha recipe still lives on.
Now in retirement, Thereza reserves her version of coxinhas for her family, but took time to join Yum Yum restaurant during the Festival Cultura e Gastronomia in Tiradentes, Brazil as a guest chef to serve up her famous snacks. During the two weekends of the festival, Thereza offered her traditional versions with chicken thigh, catupiry, and shrimp on specially-designed plates from her original restaurant, Doce Docê.
Thereza versions of coxinha can be found at most restaurants that serve the dish. And many offer even more versions beyond what Thereza devised.
Sean Flynn is a Junior Writer at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @BuffaloFlynn.