In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Can smoke herrings be considered comfort food?


trinidad smoked herringsMy idea of comfort food is any meal that takes me back to a time or place where I was in total bliss.  Words alone could never tell how happy it was for us as kids growing up on the islands, but there are several meals that takes me right back to those days. I still recall days when my dad would bring home ground provisions from the garden and my mom would cook up a batch of smoke herring to top a plate full of yam, dasheen and green bananas. Back then  I wouldn’t eat the actual pieces of smoked herrings, but the oil was drizzled all over my plate of provision.

Our girls hate the smell of smoke herrings, so with having the house all to myself today I thought I’d take advantage of this opportunity and fire up the stove to prepare some comfort food from my youth. Little did they know I had this day planned from a few days ago when I first learned that I would be home alone. I had already source some yam and smoke herring fillets.

NOTE: I’m using the herring fillets since it’s a lot less work, but I’m almost positive that you won’t get fillets if you live in the Caribbean. You can check out a pic I took at the San Fernando public market back in October of a huge pile of smoked herrings as it’s sold in the Caribbean.

You’ll Need…

1/2 lb smoked herring fillets
1 tomato
1 medium onion
1 hot pepper (your choice – I use habanero, including seeds)
dash of black pepper
6-8 tablespoons olive oil

Optional ingredients:
– 1/ 2 bell pepper diced
– 1 scallion sliced thin
– 1/4 red onion sliced thin.
– 1 pimento pepper sliced thin

* If you’re using a very hot pepper like habanero or scotch bonnet and don’t want the “flaming” heat, don’t include the seeds or the membrane that surrounds the seeds.

Start by putting the fillets into a fairly deep bowl and cover with boiling water. This will help remove some of the salt and make the fish tender enough to shred. TIP: Smoke herrings will give your hands a very strong smell which will remain long after… even after you wash with soap. If you can get a pair of disposable gloves I ‘d suggest you use it when handing the fish.

If I was making this during the warmer months I would boil it in a pot with water for a few minutes on the side burner of my grill outside. But if I were to do that during the winter months indoor, the smell would be too much for even me to handle. So I did the next best thing and poured the hot water directly over it and allow it to soak from about 15 minutes.

how to prepare smoked herrings

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While the smoke herring fillets soak in the hot (make sure it’s boiling and not just hot water from your tap) water, I prepare the onion, pepper and tomato. Basically all you’re doing is slicing the pepper and onion very thin and dice the tomato into small pieces. If you’re using the optional ingredients, all you have to do is slice/dice the same as you did with the onions etc.

trini smoke herring recipe

cooking smokee herring

Drain out the water from the bowl and rinse the fillets with a fresh batch of cool water. Squeeze dry and start breaking/shredding the fillets into small pieces. You may notice some tiny bones.. try to remove as much as you can. But don’t worry they won’t cause any real harm as they are very soft.

trinidad smoke herring with tomato and onion

Let’s now assemble everything…

Empty all the onions, pepper and tomato into the bowl with the shredded herring and add a couple dashes of black pepper. Then give it a good mix. The final step is to heat the olive oil in a pan over high heat and as soon as you start seeing smoke, pour it over everything. This will help cook the onion and allow all the flavours to marry. Mix well and serve.

simple smoke herring recipe

trini smoke herring choka

smoked herring recipe

Here’s my complete dish of boil yam topped with the smoked herrings…

trinidad smoked herrings

smoke herring and yam

The only thing I hate about comfort food is the “ritis” it gives at the end. I could so easily fall asleep now. Do you have a different way of preparing smoked herrings or a alternate way of making this recipe? I’d love for you to leave your comments below.

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53 Comments

  1. Reni
    February 28, 2018 / 7:34 am

    How about a teaspoon of Malt vinegar and coconut oil?

    • May 9, 2020 / 8:46 pm

      Omg this is delicious I can have some now I will make some soon

  2. Sato
    January 14, 2018 / 12:21 am

    Man dat is boss food. Does lash with dhal and rice too, or make ah smoked herring buljol with coconut bake. Island food. Also smoked herring with some sada eddoes and corn roti. Awesome!!!

  3. Lydia
    October 20, 2016 / 8:49 am

    Yes we do get smoke herring fillets in Trinidad., a number of years now

  4. kurtster
    February 5, 2016 / 8:43 pm

    Yah! Love carib home food. Made this with lotsa scotch bonnet, sweet bell, french shallots, green onion and yellow onion and put on baked potato and baked sweet potato…cool. Very tasty. Will do on rice and pease next. May put some grilled shrimps in it too – you never know. BTW, very small pieces of straight up chix mixed into traditional ceasar dressing instead of anchovies is outright killa.

  5. margot
    December 28, 2015 / 12:15 pm

    Absolutely love smoke herring with fried bakes!! I’m going to make some right now. Thanks for sharing good old island nostalgia.

  6. Annie
    June 4, 2015 / 2:07 pm

    Loved it!!!

  7. kerryl-lyn
    April 18, 2015 / 6:20 pm

    Felt for this dish today so I can home and made it with some fried bake. Fantastic

  8. kerryl-lyn
    April 18, 2015 / 6:19 pm

    Just finished making this dish fantastic

  9. Rosalind
    January 21, 2015 / 6:41 pm

    Smoked herring also goes very well with cornmeal cou-cou (a Bajan national dish) or breadfruit cou-cou

  10. Mona
    December 13, 2014 / 7:55 am

    Thanks for this recipe. I am preparing this for my Trini husband so I have to get it right. (Lol). I am Barbadian and my Gran did it a little differently.

  11. Linda Ferguson
    October 26, 2013 / 4:03 pm

    I love smoked herring in fact I love all fish. My parents were fron the East Coast and I was raised on fish. I sure will give this recipe a try. Thanks Chris for all you wonderful recipes

  12. Karen
    September 3, 2013 / 11:37 am

    What island are you from?

  13. SUSAN CLARKE
    July 10, 2013 / 12:04 pm

    began

    I love red herring with breadfruit coucou (creamed) but in a tomato based sauce. I also strip it in small bite sized pieces and but in jar with sliced onions, a scot bonnet pepper and some olive oil. Let it sit for a couple of weeks and eat on biscuite (crackers). SWEET MURDER!!!!!! BAJAN

  14. D.C
    June 14, 2013 / 7:02 am

    For us West Indians, smoked herring is definitely a comfort food!

    I can remember my Mother preparing it with boiled green banana and dumpling some Sunday mornings. Delicious!

  15. Gailo
    May 24, 2013 / 11:49 am

    I make this almost every Saturday morning for Breakfast sale at my church.
    Try it with coconut oil.
    As Chris will say.WICKED

  16. Gailo
    May 24, 2013 / 11:01 am

    I make this almost every Saturday morning for Breakfast sale at my church.
    Try it with coconut oil.
    As Chris will say ,WICKED

  17. gowra Loknath
    May 1, 2013 / 7:01 pm

    Hey Chris,
    I love this recipe, but I make it like tomato and saltfish. I shred the herrings, after the boil water bit. Then I cut up the onion, garlic and pepper and chonkay this in oil.(Sautee for you foreigners). Then I put in the shredded herrings and let it cook for a bit. I then add the cut up tomatoes and let it cook with a bit of sauce. I love to eat this with buss up shut. No added salt because the fish is already salty.

  18. Paige
    March 16, 2013 / 6:25 pm

    In Canada, my mother soaked them overnight in a big bowl of cold water to get out the salt. Then pan fry with a little butter and serve with toast for a out of this world breakfast!

  19. Ina
    February 28, 2013 / 3:52 pm

    Laaaaaawdddd you all have me here hungry and mouth watering

  20. shelly
    January 12, 2013 / 3:24 pm

    Cassava dumplings, sweet potato and dasheen with smoke herring and a mug of lime juice. Righteous

    • gailo
      May 24, 2013 / 10:55 am

      yes Shelly and as chris will say .WICKED

  21. natashA
    December 1, 2012 / 10:16 pm

    Hi Chris. I boil the smoked herrings and mash them up real fine. Then I fry lots of sliced onions garlic and hot peppers in oil just enough to soften them then I pour the mixture with the oil over the fish and mix. The carmeliz onions add sweet to the salty herrings that's to die for. Try it.

  22. natasha
    December 1, 2012 / 10:08 pm

    My favourite food Dahl rice ans smoked herrin…I agree with that being comfort food.

  23. Linda Ferguson
    October 19, 2012 / 4:53 pm

    Hi Chris. I remember when I was little my Mother used to tell me that some Nova Scotians are known as herring chokers.. I guess they ate a lot of herring. I know that we did when I was little. I really love smoked herring. Tks for a new way of preparing herring.

  24. warner
    September 15, 2012 / 7:55 pm

    Hi Chris, this one brings back wonderful memory for me, but in Antigua we call it red herring. You can cook it in lime juice or vinegar and that will take away the scent. it funny now how these things are so expensive, back then it was poor people food. Keep up the good work Chris.

  25. Avion Orr
    September 10, 2012 / 3:42 pm

    I boil my herring first with a little lime juice. I also saute the ingredients stretching it with chopped cabbage before adding my herring. I love this dish.

  26. Bebe
    April 27, 2012 / 12:16 am

    I love smoke herring. I love the pictures as I learn by seeing not reading so much recipes. My cousin in Canada sent me to you. I live in Tennessee where I cannot find smoke herring fillets like I use to in
    Florida. Maybe if I find a spanish store I can get it there. Do you know where I can get it in Tennessee?
    I also love you other recipes. I am dribbling for doubles, bara, poulori and all that good stuff. Maybe you'
    have a recipe for doubles….let me know. Thanks alot. Bebe

  27. carol
    April 17, 2012 / 6:55 am

    Hi Chris, you must be corrected. Here in Trinidad we do get smoke herring fillets at the supermarkets
    As a matter of fact I have a pack in my refridgerator right now. This recipe is a splendid dish . Happy eating. Thank you.

  28. Andrianna
    December 19, 2011 / 10:45 am

    This recipe looks amazing. Looks easy to make and I really think my kids will enjoy this.

  29. D. Singh
    August 18, 2011 / 6:51 pm

    Hi Chris,
    These are really good food you are talking about, I usually make my Smoke Herring somewhat the same. One thing I do differently because of health reasons I put the Oil from on top and mix it without heating it. It doesn't matter if it's Olive or what type of Oil I may use I don't heat it because once it is heated it's not too good for me. I would like to let you know also that since many years now in Trinidad you can get Fillet Smoke Herring also Salt fish without any bones in the Supermarkets. I usually buy it at Extra Foods Supermarket at the Grand Baazar Mall. You can also get Crabs, Conchs and Common Fowl, not forgetting Chadon Benni and many more. Thanks for sharing these wonderful dishes with us you're just great!

  30. Cheri
    August 8, 2011 / 10:38 am

    Like Madeleine I usually put chive and celery but I like mines with Dhal and Rice. Yum, Yum.

  31. trini
    July 27, 2011 / 3:35 pm

    I totally cheated and used the canned kippered herrings. They weren't as strong in flavor but they also weren't as salty. I made the same recipe except I put a little powdered coconut cream (another cheat) in to the simmer. It was pretty good and quick! I had it over boiled green bananas. You were my inspiration.

  32. madeleine frank
    July 21, 2011 / 3:13 pm

    Hi chris…i love smokeherring fryrice you are wondering whats that, i cook my rice then i stew my smokeherring with all the herbs and onion, garlic, celery, chive, some tomato paste a little ketchup then mix it up with the rice ah don't forget thr thyme that is a little of my recipe for smokeherring. Madeleine

  33. trini
    August 31, 2010 / 7:18 pm

    Soak for 15 minutes? I boil my herring fillets for at least 45 minutes to get out all that salt.

  34. ONEHAPPYTRINI
    August 25, 2010 / 6:22 am

    HEY CHRIS . LOVE THE BLOG 🙂 JUST A SHORT NOTE TO SAY THAT YES YOU CAN GET SMOKED HERRINGS IN A BONELESS FILLET NOW NOT AT THE SUPERMARKETS, I DONT BUY THEM ANY OTHER WAY 🙂

  35. petr thomas
    June 22, 2010 / 4:13 am

    hiya
    chris, thx for this recipes, here in GB they are a good old fashioned food, especially here in the north, we call them kippas (smoked herring) mmmmmmm sooooo good, :))))

    • June 23, 2010 / 9:26 pm

      If I recall correctly, I saw a travel/food show and they did feature "kippas"… not sure if it was the "two fat ladies".

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  36. Andrea
    April 24, 2010 / 10:22 pm

    Chris,
    Love the pics, they are invaluable as well as the step by step instructions. I am cooking the smoked herring for breakfast tomorrow with some green bananas and fried plantain. I will definitely be subscribing to Sizzle.
    Do you have a recipe for alloo(sp?) pie? I am of Jamaican parentage, but my "auntie" used to visit and make this treat for us. I miss it ;(

    • June 23, 2010 / 9:25 pm

      Thanks. Sorry, I don't have a recipe posted yet, but will get one up soon and let you know. Do let me know if you liked the smoked herrings.. wish I had some green bananas right now.

  37. jane
    April 16, 2010 / 1:38 am

    wow am not trinidad smone should have mentioned u need to wash the damn herring so salty i just put on hot water .wowi have no dinner.sob sob

    • April 17, 2010 / 11:17 pm

      Jane, are you sure you used smoked herrings and not some sort of salted version. The fillets I used do have a bit of a salty taste, but by adding the hot water to it and allowing it to soak, usually removes it.

      So sorry to hear you didn't have any dinner this night.. next time drop by our home and we'll take care of you.

      don't let this deter you from giving it another try.

      happy cooking

      chris…

  38. March 15, 2010 / 6:28 pm

    Love to check out your website!! Made some smoke herring today with biled provision. I make it a little different sometimes. I fry the cleaned s/herring in the oil for a couple minutes then add the tomatoes etc. Taste great both ways!! Great job Chris. Keep it up….

    • April 17, 2010 / 11:15 pm

      Frying the smoked herring is a summer time dish.. since the scent is so strong I can only get away with doing it on my BBQ .. outside. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      happy cooking

      chris

  39. Elaine Williams
    February 16, 2010 / 2:49 pm

    To get rid of the smell of smoked herring on my hands I rub about a teaspoon of oil on my hands up to the wrist , wipe it off with a paper towel then wash with a sweet smelling soap or dishwashing liquid and it works real good.

    • admin
      February 21, 2010 / 3:21 pm

      Eliane, thanks for the tip. I recall using the same tip before peeling ground provisions, especially eddoes. To avoid having my hands being itchy after.

      happy cooking

      chris…

  40. aaesha shonda
    February 15, 2010 / 6:17 pm

    i love island food!!! especially roti and herring and yucca. this is my home right here!!

  41. February 6, 2010 / 10:10 pm

    Never have smoked herring but Indonesians love our salt fish. Deep fried salt fish, steamed rice, cucumber and sambal. Real people’s food.

    • admin
      February 9, 2010 / 10:55 pm

      Tuty, saltfish is VERY popular in the Caribbean as well.. just now it’s very expensive, where in the past it could have been considered peasant food.

      happy cooking

      chris…

  42. February 6, 2010 / 4:09 pm

    I love not jut the taste but the smell of smoked herring. I like it sauteed too but with dhal and rice.
    .-= Cynthia´s last blog ..Want to make a Trini Pelau? =-.

    • admin
      February 9, 2010 / 10:56 pm

      BIG meal you mentioned there Cynthia. My grandmother use to make a dhal with a mixture of split peas and lentils to go with the smoke herring. She’s 94 now and still cooking up a storm.

      happy cooking

      chris…

    • admin
      February 9, 2010 / 11:00 pm

      Welcome Lea Ann and thanks for commenting. Stay tuned for more recipes.

      happy cooking

      chris…

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