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by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
Jamaica is surrounded by water, so much so that every parish has a coastline. So it should come as no surprise that many Jamaicans are avid fish eaters. As a matter of fact, over the years, many Jamaicans have switched to a strict pescatarian diet. Similarly to the various ways of preparing chicken, there are just as many ways to prepare fish in Jamaica.
Some of the most common ways fish is prepared is fried, roasted, steamed, grilled, curried and brown stewed.
The season of lent, which falls in the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, is a time when Jamaicans typically have fish much more often. This is because, during this period, it is customary for Jamaicans “to give up something for lent”. Most often, this would be something dietary, which would lead to most opting for a cleaner diet of mainly fish and vegetables.
So, if you are a fish lover yourself, you may wonder, what type of fish do they eat in Jamaica? Surely with the island being surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, one would believe we have a wide selection of fish. But in most cases, most Jamaicans, right across the island have the same types of fish even though there are some exceptions to that.
If the community or area one is living in is a fishing area, those people would have a wider selection of fresh seawater fish, while in some urban areas you will find that most will have to settle for pond raised fish or frozen store brought fish.
Here are some of the most had Jamaican Fish:
This is “The Fish” to have in Jamaica. Of course, there are different variations of the Snapper fish, some of the most popular ones in Jamaica are the red snapper, silver snapper, mangrove snapper and yellowtail snapper. If you were to ask just about any Jamaican what the best fish is, they would answer the red snapper. Not only is it tasty, but it can also be quite expensive as well. A steamed snapper is a favourite for many, but this Jamaican Fish can also be fried or escovitch.
If the snapper is the most loved, then sliced fish is definitely the most popular. Sliced fish are usually Kingfish or Trout fish that has been sliced horizontally with a 2 to 3-inch thickness. They are very versatile and are typically fried, steamed, curried or brown stewed. One of the main reasons why this fish is so popular is not just because of their taste and versatility, but because they a much more affordable, especially in comparison to the red snapper.
As a child, I could remember this being my parent's favourite fish. Every Sunday morning when the fish van would drive around the community with its igloos of fresh fish, they would ensure they got a few pounds. The parrotfish comes in many colours, and most times a mixture of colours, from pink, blue, red, and orange.
The parrotfish is mostly steamed or roasted. Unfortunately for us the lovers of parrotfish, but best for the maintenance of our coral reefs, the parrotfish is not as commonly caught and sold as before. The parrotfish plays a huge role in cleaning the coral reef by eating algae and excreting sand to aid in preventing beach erosion.
So, on those very Sunday mornings, while my parents would choose the parrotfish, I would eagerly dig through the igloo of fishes with my bare hands, searching for these flat, broad, greyish-silverish looking fish.
The doctor's fish was my favourite. While the doctor fish can be fried, that is rarely done, as it tastes best when steamed or roasted. The doctor fish isn’t quite as common anymore and to get this you would have to go directly to a fishing market.
These are another quite common and popular Jamaican fish. While there are different types of grunt, the silver grunt is most common in Jamaica. Even though they are not typically on the top of anyone’s list of favourite fish, they are nutritious, affordable and taste great when fried.
These tiny fishes, both quite similar in appearance, are what many Jamaicans call fryers. They are very small and have extremely tiny bones. They are oftentimes fried in large batches, with each person having quite a few of them, sometimes even 10 or more. The biggest annoyance is the tiny bones, but, if you are of the same daring spirit as most Jamaicans, feel free to just go ahead and devour the entire thing, bones and all.
There is a common saying in Jamaica, “yuh tough like turbit”, that is usually used to describe a person with a “hard” appearance. This saying was derived from the Turbot fish. This fish has an extremely tough skin that you cannot bite through.
The skin of the fish has to be completely removed for it to be eaten. It is a very fleshy fish and tastes great when curried. It is most commonly had in rural areas.
This is one of the less common fishes across Jamaica but is quite popular in rural areas that have a fishing village. It is quite versatile but is usually fried or grilled. Similar to the Turbot fish, the skin is removed before it is prepared.
Some other popular fish in Jamaica are Jackfish, butterfish, goatfish, and Wrenchman fish. While fishes like tuna and Salmon seem to be popular worldwide, they are not commonly eaten in most Jamaican households.
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