“Longtime you had to go to the market to get your supply of fresh fish but nowadays the fish market comes to you by way of “Fat Fish” – a local fish depot that is committed to delivering “Fresh seafood straight to your doorstep”.
For busy millennials, like myself the idea of going to market every Saturday, walking thru the cross talk of persons haggling over a bundle of chive, scuffing off the scales being splattered on you by the fishmonger and toting heavy bags, doesn’t quiet appeal when compared to an early Saturday workout followed by a big cup of tea. Mind you, I grew up in the Port of Spain Central market because my grandmother had a stall there for many years so it’s not being stush, it’s just me wanting to spend my time elsewhere.
We received a 3 lb parcel of King fish and yours truly was given the task of trying out the service. Ordering was a breeze via the unqueue app linked in their Instagram bio. Very minimal design and checkout was a BREEZE! I received a friendly call to confirm my order and the fish was delivered to me within hours …minus the scales 😂- (it helped that I worked minutes away from the depot).
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Now, I was never a king fish person, although my grandmother made it all the time for my grandfather – in fact, it was the only fish she did for him (apart from the occasional red fish) and the final product would be huge cuts of king fish simmering in a rich and golden reddish/orange gravy with lots of thyme, onions, garlic and your usual aromatics – even a touch of coconut milk. I thought I would pay homage to my “Nana” and cook some “stew fish” in an iron pot – just the way she did it.
Stewed fish is a staple in every Caribbean home and though the origin is not quite clear, I reckon it touched the hands of our slaved ancestors and was refined along the way. Each island would have created their variation, for example in some countries like Jamaica and Haiti they call it “Brown Stew ” and it would have the colour to go with it. Here in Trinidad, it’s more on the reddish/orangish side which is due to the heavy dollops of tomato paste, actual tomatoes and/or golden ray.
Some people like to fry the fish then put it in the stew sauce and others add the fish as is – however you choose to make, is entirely up to you. I prefer the latter because I don’t like the breading from the fish soaking up all the sauce – although that is something that is loved by most. If I’m eating fried fish then I want that slightly crispy coating to remain intact but again, there is no wrong or right way to do it – just the way that is pleasing to you.
So, let’s get into the recipe.
Stewed Fish Ingredients
- 1 ½ lbs of king fish or 4 slices – cleaned and seasoned
- 2 tbsp Vegetable or Soya Bean oil
- 1 tbsp of salted butter
- 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
- ½ tsp of ginger (finely chopped)
- 1 stalk of celery (finely chopped with the leaves)
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium onion –thinly sliced
- 2 Tomatoes – thickly cut (4 or 6 cuts)
- 3 Pimentos-thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- 1 tsp Brown sugar
- 1 hot pepper
- ½ coconut milk
- ¾ warm water
- Salt and black pepper to taste
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— unqueue (@unqueue_app) April 15, 2021
Stewed Fish Method
- Clean fish by rubbing it with lime and salt and let soak in water for about 15 minutes. You can use flour as well, but the lime is important. Drain and season to your liking. Traditional green seasoning is great here with salt and black pepper. Let it marinate for at least 30 mins or overnight.
- In a large deep-dish pan or pot, heat oil and butter on medium to low fire. Add in onions, tomatoes, pimentos, garlic, ginger, thyme, celery, bay leaf and sauté until the onions become translucent. It should also have a slight orange hue from the tomatoes.
- At this point, add tomato paste and stir vigorously until fully incorporated. Next add ¾ cup of warm water and let simmer.
- When it begins to look slightly frothy at the surface, reduce the fire and carefully place your fish being careful not to over crowd the pot. Here would be a good time to also add in the seasoning water (if any) from the fish. The pieces should not overlap each other. Add a whole hot pepper and cover for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, the fish should start to look somewhat opaque, and you can flip them over on the other side. At this point you can also taste for salt and add where necessary. You can also add sugar if needed, to cut the acidity. For added richness, add a pad more butter if you choose and you can also add more water if it has dried down too much. Cover for 2-3 minutes.
- Uncover and add 1/4 cup of coconut milk. This gives it a richness and slight sweetness but would also give the sauce a slightly pastel shade. Remove from heat and serve over rice, coo-coo or use as a dip for bread.