Well Jamaica is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and our fisherfolk go to great lengths to maintain a long tradition of providing fresh fish from locations all over the island. In response, Jamaicans have continued the tradition passed down by the Tainos, of having a diet that includes a lot of seafood with fish being the main catch.
There are several traditional ways we Jamaicans prepare our fish and just below you will see 5 things we do with the day's catch.
Photo: Jamaican Dish - Steamed Fish
A serving of steamed fish can be a very satisfying breakfast or lunch option. Some people can prepare a mean steam fish meal with little effort but for me, it requires a lot of skill. The preferred fish for steaming is the snapper - whether the red or yellow tail variety. A medium to large fish is used in most cases. When eating out and having fish remember it is done to order. That way you can select the size and type of fish you want to be done and the chef will prepare it just the way you like. If you're doing it from home there are recipes you can follow. But generally, you will need coconut milk, okras, pumpkin, fresh and dried seasonings, pepper and hard crackers (optional). Steam fish can be had with whatever you like. Jamaicans also have it with yams, other ground provisions, dumplings of any sort and even roast breadfruit.
Roasted Fish Roasted fish is a great lunch idea. Some individuals are really good at preparing fish this way. A fish that is to be roasted must be gutted, descaled and washed. You can stuff the fish with a selection of fresh vegetables/seasonings. After that, the fish is wrapped in foil and placed on a grill, outdoor fire or on coals. There are stovetop, oven and microwave-based methods, however, the traditional way is to make a bed of coals, place a tin sheet or zinc on that and then lay the fish on the hot metal. When using this method the fish are roasted with the scales intact. Some other more recent methods employ the bed of coals with the fish wrapped in foil or the fish is wrapped in foil and placed on a makeshift or real grill. Roasted fish is great on its own. It is also great with hardo bread, roasted breadfruit and festivals.
Fish Tea There is a popular joke about a “bafan” - a person, especially a woman, who is not skilled at housework- who was asked to make fish tea and used a bundle of peppermint as the seasoning. I'm sure this will not happen to you after today. A pot of fish tea is a great appetizer. It is also popular with people who are ill or recovering from illness and do not yet desire to consume a lot of solid foods. Fish tea, though, is actually a light and flavourful soup. It can be spicy too but that is up to you. Some of the most important things to have on hand when making fish tea include carrots, chocho, irish potato, green bananas, pumpkin and yam. You will also need a selection of fresh seasonings such as escallion, garlic and thyme. If you're preparing it for a sick person, try not to make it spicy. The key to making a good fish tea is to lighten the soup by reducing the food content. It should be broth-like. To reduce the possibility of choking on bones I suggest the use of a bag in which you can place the fish before placing it into the pot. You can fillet the fish as well as choose a fish that does not have a high bone to fish ratio. Cut the foods into small bite-sized bits and use fish that are small. This is great on its own.
Fried Fish This too requires fresh and dried seasoning. You will need a large skillet if you're planning to fry fish that are medium to large or if you're planning to take a few fish overseas with you. Make certain your oil is of a quality that will not smoke at high temperatures. Wash dry and season the fish and then place them in the oil. The excess oil should be absorbed on a napkin. This can be had with hardough bread, festivals, fries or bammy. However, you don't have to limit yourself to these four sides.
This is a method of preserving and giving fish a different flavour, the fish are first fried and then placed in a large container. Each layer of fish is garnished with the onions, pepper, chocho and carrots which were julienned and sauteed lightly in oil. These are placed in a glass jar and doused with white cane vinegar before it is tightly closed. The vinegar acts as a zesty preservative. Each layer of fish receives a layer of the escovitch. This preserves the fish. The most perfect thing to have escoveitched fish with is bammies. However, there is no crime if you eat this with roasted/fried breadfruit, fried green plantains, festivals or hardough bread.
Of course, there are many ways to prepare fish and we hope these suggestions will get you to appreciate fish more and even experiment with other methods such as grilling or who knows you may even come up with your own style.
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