Pumpkin and shrimp are two things mom struggled to get us to eat as kids, but as an adult I can't get enough. Looking back I wish I had started eating pumpkin from a younger age as the pumpkins mom would use came directly from the small garden we had at the back of our home in rural Trinidad. Grown organically and under the brilliant Caribbean sun... I still recall mom commenting "gosh this pumpkin cook real gud" every time she made a pumpkin dish.
I may have mentioned this in the past, but growing up on the islands I never liked fish and I think the same can be said about my brother and sisters (mom had a tough time with us). While I outgrew this, I still think my sisters are not fans of fish to this day. My brother on the other hand, elevated his taste buds.. so it's not strange to see him at seafood restaurants in New York sitting behind a massive lobster feasting away. While my fav fish dish is my mom's curry Kingfish, during the summer months this grilled fish is something I do quite often.
"Dad, can you make me chow?" No Mango! "How about shrimp?" That was the brief discussion between Tehya and I a few weeks back when she got her routine craving for mango chow. A spicy pickle usually made with green (tart) mangoes, or any of the variety of fruits we have in the Caribbean. Had to admit, it was a brilliant idea. We both enjoy shrimp cocktail and with the sort of spicy base.. could this be the "Caribbean" version of shrimp cocktail?
After moving to Canada I was exposed to many 'new' ingredients, which were not found in the typical Caribbean garden or market. One such ingredient which became an immediate hit with my taste buds was asparagus. Normally I'd grill them, but early in the season when it's still a bit too cold to go outside and spark up the grill, I like doing this sort of stew (stir-fry for many). Based on the method we use for making a saltfish (salted cod) stew in the Caribbean, this is certainly one of the best ways to enjoy asparagus.
Hopefully you've had time to try the Smoked Herring With Cabbage recipe I shared with you last week. A truly classic dish made with subtle differences throughout the Caribbean. This time we'll do one mom would always make for dad whenever she had leftovers from the cabbage and smoked herrings combo. Since we had a variety of banana trees in our kitchen garden at the back of the house, we always made use of the 'cooking fig" (green cooking bananas) supply we always seemed to have.
Here's another one of those dishes I hated as a kid growing up on the islands. Both the smoked herrings and the cabbage were etched into my don't eat list, but as an adult they're two ingredients I not only use on the regular, but crave. The scent of dad roasting the smoked herrings (back then the choice were whole fish) on an open flame to give it extra flavor and to help remove the skin and bones, wasn't pleasant. That said.. even when using the fillets as I'm about to do, know that it will impart a distinct scent throughout your kitchen/home.
It's kinda funny that in the Caribbean we quickly reach of a can of sardines more often than taking advantage of the abundance of fresh sardines from the Caribbean sea. It's probably a convenience thing, plus if you ever had to clean sardines you'd know that it's a bit time consuming (and smelly). Admittedly I'm a HUGE fan of tin sardines.. done with thinly sliced onion, tomato and scotch bonnet peppers.. with a bit of freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.
With all the requests I usually get this time of the year (Good Friday) for fish recipes, I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes using fillets of Red Snapper. In my youth days on the islands it was ALWAYS fish on Good Friday (Catholic home) and though mom and dad never went to church they felt it necessary to stick with tradition. Usually it was fried, stewed or curry fish, served with ground provisions (Yam, Dasheen. Eddoes, Cassava and/or green bananas), a salad of some sort and I still recall dad drizzling olive oil (sweet-oil as he would call it) over the boiled ground provisions.
Shrimp Wontons or Wantons is one of those snacks I grew up eating at the many Chinese restaurants and food trucks in San Fernando Trinidad as a young fella. Fresh from the fryer and dipped in a basic sauce of soy sauce and pepeprsauce, it was the ideal thing to eat after dad, my younger brother and I would go watch Kung Fu movies on a Saturday afternoon. It was usually the appetizer for an amazing full-on Chinese meal, as you could ONLY get in Trinidad and Tobago. Ask any Trinbagonian and they will swear that 'our' Chinee (Chinese) food is unlike any you'd find elsewhere.
I've had a weakness for these delightful fried dough balls served with spicy chutney, ever since my school days. I'd guess that at least 50% of my weekly allowance went directly to the vendors outside our school compound, selling pholourie and other popular street foods in San Fernando (Trinidad). There was one spot where they sold them straight from the fryer dripping in hot grease, but the lines were always longest there. Would explain why as soon as the recess or lunch bell would go off, it was like an Olympic 100 meter dash to get out the gates and at the front of the line. I dare Usain Bolt to get in our way or try to outrun us.