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.
I grew up in a house where food was NEVER wasted, so 'butter' containers (empty ice cream, butter and margarine containers mom would wash and reuse) stacked in the fridge was a norm. Usually packed with whatever leftovers there was from the night before. So finding the same in our fridge is not that surprising. This fried rice recipe is something I usually do when I want something quick, filling and delicious to eat and I have some leftover rice in the fridge.
Breakfast was usually a grab and go routine for me as a young fella on the islands during the week, as I went to school in the city and it meant leaving our sleepy village very early in the morning. I had to take a 2nd taxi (shared) when I got into San Fernando (2nd largest city in Trinidad) to make it in time for the first bell. So weekends was when mom would go all out with whatever we wanted for breakfast. Now this sort of breakfast was never included as I only developed a liking for many of the ingredients you'll see me use, during my travels across the Caribbean as an adult.
Tehya and I had the pleasure of being hosted by the City and Mayor of Seoul Korea a couple years ago and it was one of the most amazing culinary and cultural experiences we've ever had. You know a trip is starting off on a good note, when on your 14hr flight your first meal comes with a tube of peppersauce (Gochujang)! A rich, deep pepper paste with a hint of fermentation, balanced by the gentle heat of the peppers and an undertone of soy (sauce). This recipe is in memory of the beautiful people f Korea and the way the City of Seoul catered to our many senses and opened the door for my awareness of the rich culinary culture of Asia.
One of the things I looked forward too the entire trip to Jamaica was the FISH. From the jerk, to them being steamed with okra and crackers to my favorite... escovitch! Red Snapper (or Parrot fish) seasoned, perfectly fried, then topped with the spicy pickled dressing known as escovitch sauce. For most the thin slices of Scotch Bonnet were to be avoided, but they were like little prizes between the sweet peppers, scallions, onions and other ingredients in the vinegar based sauce. Any trip to the Caribbean is more than just a homecoming, it's a culinary extravaganza for me and Jamaica did not disappoint!
Rundown is yet another stew type dish where there are several variations as you make your way across the Caribbean. From the ingredients used to the technique, you'll find that as you go from island to island, you'll encounter subtle (delicious) differences. This recipe was shared with me many moons ago when I first came to Canada and I became friends with the only other Caribbean family who lived the the same apartment building we called home the early years in Hamilton. My friend's Jamaican grandmother was a general in the kitchen and from time to time she would share some of her secrets with me... she saw the curiosity in my eyes!
There are several variations to fish soups as you make your way up and down the island chain of the Caribbean, so there's no surprise that I have several recipes in my repertoire. This version is very similar to the fish broff (broth) you'd find in Trinidad and Tobago, which I shared a few years back. Fairly light when compared to the thick stew-like soups we enjoy in the Caribbean, but you can certainly add yams, green cooking bananas, sweet potatoes, dasheen and other ingredients if you like.