Tuesday, 11 March 2014

They call it Steamed fish

Something smells fishy...

As you can ascertain from the title I don’t consider this dish to be steamed fish at all. By ‘they’ I mean my Jamaican parents, grandparents, ancestors and every seafood restaurant in the country. While this is CLEARLY a fish stew and in no way a steamed fish, I have come to accept it for what it is and not question decades of Jamaican food history. Never the less this is one of my favorite ways to prepare fish second only to escovitch.

I always assumed they coined this method steamed fish in order to differentiate it from its close cousin Brown-stew fish. The major difference, brown stew, as the name suggests entails stewing a fish that has been fried or browned, while the traditional steam fish recipe stews a raw fish.  

It’s a very simple preparation and only requires one pot. It has all the quintessential Jamaican flavors of scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, scallions, and the works. You must ensure that you use fresh fish for this once again. A stale fish will show its true colors once submerged in the hot tub of flavor. Check the greedy tips for a fresh fish check list.

My mother has been making this dish for us for as long as I can remember. It’s simply the best with turn-cornmeal, that recipe I’m going to have to share with you another time because the creamy cornmeal is the perfect sponge for the fish stew.  

Ingredients (printable recipe)

4 clean fish (scales fish gills etc removed)
½ tsp. black pepper (to season fishes)
3 tsp. salt  (to season fishes)
1 sachet grace fish tea
3 scallion talks
1 onion
1 tomato
1 carrot
1 table spoon allspice berries
4 garlic cloves
1 scotch bonnet pepper
4 sprigs of thyme
3 cups water
2 tbsp butter


  • Season fish with salt and black pepper, wrap in foil and set aside in the refrigerator
  • Chop the veggies: onions, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes
  • In a separate dish dissolve the sachet of fish tea seasoning  into the 3 cups of water
  • Once dissolved strain the mixture, discarding the noodles and reserve the liquid
  • Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the onion, tomato and pepper till soft
  • Add the scallions, thyme, allspice and carrots sauté for another minute
  • Add the fish tea liquid to the veggies on high heat let this come to a boil and reduce by almost half about 8 to 10 minutes
  • Once the sauce is reducing submerge the fish into the liquid, spoon the carrots on top and allow it to cook on medium heat
  • After about 15 to 20 minutes the fish will be tender and delicate and the sauce should be rich
  • Serve on crackers, rice, turn-cornmeal etc. 

Greedy tips:

  • Most times persons will remove the fish from the pot and add a layer of tough crackers (water crackers) to the sauce and then replace the fish back on top.
  • You can add okra, pumpkin, potatoes etc.  to your stew if you like
  • If you don’t have the fish tea, just add 1 ½  tsp. of seasoning salt and ½ tsp. sugar to the water

Fresh fish checklist:
Use these tools to give you a little help in choosing the freshest fish
  • Is the mouth open? If it is chances are its stale
  •  Does it smell? Fish should have little to no smell, it should smell like water, it should not smell bad
  •  Does it bounce back when poked? If it does not it’s probably stale. A fresh plum fish always comes back to shape when you lightly press the skin.
  •  If you purchased frozen fish or you were not the purchaser you really wont know the fish is stale until it hits the heat. Once the fish gets into the hot water it will immediately flare out, the mouth will open wide, it may even fold inside out, if that happens, throw it out. It will be too tough, and the meat will be mushy.
  • When a fresh fish hits heat, weather water or oil, its retains its shape exactly the same as if it were cold.

 Xoxo Greedygirl

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