In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Steamed Fish With Cabbage And Ochro.

jamaican steam fish recipe (12)

Here’s another dish we tore-up while on our Jamaican trek a few weeks ago. As a youth on the islands I enjoyed fish three ways.. curried, stew and in fish broth. Non of which was an easy sell for our to get us to eat. So this steamed fish was new to me… especially when I saw it being served with crackers and bammy (cassava flat bread). At first seeing a fish that looked as if it was boiled and with no real color to it, was not all that appealing to me. However after the first bite I could only think “I was missing out all these years”.

It was day 5 into our 1 week vacation and we were out about town in Portmore around 11 pm, when we decided on having fish tea. But that only sparked our appetite and we ended up with plates platters of massive steamed red snapper. The most exciting yet funny thing about this meal was the fact that you’re led to a huge fridge with freshly caught fish and you have the opportunity to choose which fish you want cooked. So there we were standing in front of this sort of chest fridge and it was my turn to choose a fish.  The red snappers were huge and I knew I would struggle to finish one, but the next option were parrot fish. Have you ever seen a parrot fish? There was no way way I could eat something so beautiful. I didn’t say I couldn’t eat that pretty fish (though they were the perfect size), so I settled for the big-ass red snapper.

Here’s my take on this classic Jamaican steamed fish dish.

You’ll Need…

1 lime or lemon
2 fish (about 1 lb each)
2 cups fish stock (or water)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (divided)
1 1/2 cups cabbage
10 ochro
1 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic (see note below)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 scallions (green onions)
2 medium tomato
1/4 teaspoon salt

* I didn’t have any garlic, so I opted to use about 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Traditionally I’ve seen vinegar and some butter used in preparing this dish, however I’m no fan of vinegar and we could all do without the fat from the butter.

* I opted for Sea Bass, but a more sturdy fish like Red Snapper is better suited. Not only was the sea bass cheap (don’t ever go looking for fish around Good Friday at the market), it’s a nice mild fish which I find works well with the other ingredients in the recipe. The dish is not over-powered by a fishy taste.

Start by heating the fish stock or water in a fairly large pan (one with a cover) and allow to simmer. If you can’t get fish stock, try to get a package or 2 of fish tea. I suppose you can use vegetable stock as well if you wish. To that we’ll add the ochro (okra) which we trimmed the stems off and cut in half. We also gave the onion a rough chop and added it to the simmering stock, as well as the chopped cabbage. Place the lid on the pan and allow to reduce for about 5-7 minutes on low heat.

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Place your fish in a large bowl (I assume you already have it cleaned), squeeze the juice of the lime or lemon over the fish, then rinse off with cool water and drain. We’ll now chop the scallions into halves, then keep the green ends about 4-5 inches or so and dice the remaining pieces. Fine chop the 1/2 of scotch bonnet or habanero pepper and rinse off the thyme under cool water, but keep intact (on the sprig). You’ll notice that I trimmed the gills, fin and tail off my fish.. I can’t stand seeing those things on the fish when I’m eating it.

If your fish is not cut down the middle of the belly, do so, so we can stuff it with the seasoning. Take about 3 sprigs of thyme, 1/2 of the scallions (greens), 1/2 of the chopped scotch bonnet pepper and a dash of black pepper and stuff the cavity of each fish. In the pics you’ll notice that I forgot to make a couple cuts along the sides of the fish (I did so later on). Please do so now so the fish will cook faster and the flavors will absorb nicely into the fish itself.

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Now add the chopped tomato, garlic (or garlic powder), the rest of the black pepper and the seasoned fish into the pot. You may need to make room so the fish sit deep as possible in the pot. Give the pot a shake and spoon some of that rich broth we created over each fish. Bring to a boil, place the whole scotch bonnet on top, then reduce the heat to a simmer and close the lid. Let this cook for about 10 minutes. Remember to add the salt and near the end do taste to see if you need more. The fish stock I used had salt in it already, so that accounted for some of the salt in the overall dish. Do adjust accordingly.

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As I mentioned above, this steamed fish is usually served with crackers and/or bammy, but I was quite full with one of these,  some of the ochro and cabbage. Before I go I encourage you to join us on Face Book, Twitter and do check out the cooking videos. Yea.. leave me your comments below – it’s always appreciated!

Before you go calling me a wuss, take look at how pretty this fishy is…


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  1. November 21, 2016 / 11:33 pm

    Hi Chris
    You say this is steamed fish but I read you boiled it.And where did you use the other half of the green o
    i am trying to try your recipes whenever i can
    Thanks and God bless

  2. Melva
    October 28, 2016 / 11:09 am

    So Glad for this steamed fish recipe, my Friday fish dinner is ready and quite tasty. I love the Caribbean way of cooking.


  3. Vivian
    March 26, 2016 / 8:48 am

    Chris I will have to try this steam fish…..yum..

  4. Rosalind
    December 11, 2015 / 12:43 pm

    You should have been in Barbados for sea eggs when the season was going.

  5. Alana
    January 26, 2015 / 12:57 am

    Can’t wait to try.

  6. Mr B
    November 19, 2014 / 6:07 pm

    All Classic

  7. alison
    January 16, 2014 / 4:50 pm

    always love your recipes, they come out perfect and authentic tasting every time.

  8. Phil
    December 18, 2013 / 1:01 pm

    Boy im a trini lived in toronto 18 years now in florida your recipies are great .my friends says im a great cook but i still take a lot of your recipes and use them with my own blend keep it up great job

  9. Kiddy
    December 11, 2013 / 12:18 pm

    I do something similar with trout ( I live in Labrador and catch them fresh)
    When i am in a hurry, I slice potatoes thinly, use either green onions/chives or regular sliced onion, salt and pepper and a sliver of salt beef with a dash of lime juice. I add about 1/4 cup of water, bring to the boil, turn down to low ( covered) and in 20 minutes, I have a lovely meal.
    For a change, I use green seasoning instead of onions and float a flavor pepper as well,

  10. tremor
    October 22, 2013 / 3:14 am

    Hi Chris good. Food. That will. Go down with some. Coconut rice

  11. Wyn
    September 20, 2012 / 9:35 pm

    Chris, thanks for always going through everything step by step. I never liked the kitchen BEFORE seeing you at work on this site and the scrumptous dishes. The photos leaving me dribblin'.
    As for this recipe, I would like to know if I can use mackerel.
    Looking forward to more on your site which is truly manna from heaven especially when you are not home on your island. 🙂

  12. D. Singh
    July 5, 2012 / 12:23 am

    Chris, Thanks again for this wonderful recipe it is really very tasty . Since you've given us this recipe the first time I'm always making it. I've had it many times with rice, bread, steamed breadfruit and boil and fry provisions. Keep these delicious recipes coming my friend, thank you and God bless!

  13. Donat
    April 28, 2012 / 10:05 am

    I agree on the use of a snapper, a good hog snapper or a black snapper is firm enough for this dish. Pimento is a must add and for me I use about 1 cup of coconut milk as well.

  14. Misty
    March 30, 2012 / 4:10 am

    My first visit to the Caribbean was to Antigua where I had wonderful steamed fish. I'm going to try this recipe for my friends who got married there. I agree about the parrot fish, I know, it's not logical, but they are so beautiful. Thanks for the recipe, and thanks to people who commented with some other good suggestions. I loved Antigua and want to go back.

    • Esther
      October 21, 2022 / 10:38 am

      Try Other Islands and try locals

  15. caribman
    February 10, 2012 / 2:56 pm

    I prefer yellow tail, grouper or king fish fish for steaming and I always have mine with fungi (coo-coo)

  16. sexylisa80
    November 15, 2011 / 4:55 pm

    Hey Chris I know that taste good, I love steam fish I always put mix vegetable in mine.

  17. ceecee
    August 17, 2011 / 7:05 am

    omg i made this for my man who is jamaican and he loved it. i always make him recipes from this site and he never complains. my mom is half jamaican but she is american so i never learned how to make authentic jamaican food being that my grandmother died when i was 5. i have made the curry goat as well as the jerk chicken aside from this dish, and everyone, including myself loved each dish. ty so much for sharing and keep em coming. 🙂

  18. yanique
    August 16, 2011 / 2:45 pm

    just ausumn, i love steam fish

  19. carol campbell
    August 8, 2011 / 3:46 pm

    good one, the looks of it I would eat right now.

  20. Nicole Taylor-Aidoo
    July 9, 2011 / 7:09 pm

    Made this recipe with my own twist and it came out great! I used frozen whiting fillets and ingredients I had on hand…chicken and vegetable broth and a few dashes of asian fish sauce. Red and green peppers instead of scotch bonnet and served with a side of boiled Yukon gold potatoes. A squeeze of lemon juice and fresh ground black pepper finished it off nicely. Yummm! Thanks Chris.

  21. May 18, 2011 / 6:12 am

    What? No pimento (all spice)? is i Maybe personal preference on your part but for me Jamaican steamed fish must have that spice. Nonetheless love this dish and get serious cravings for it.

  22. Doonwati
    May 16, 2011 / 7:21 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I'm sure going to try this because it looks good and tasty. I usually cook fish about five times a week. Thank you so much for this recipe as always. Take care and God bless!

  23. Cheeya
    April 28, 2011 / 2:22 pm

    Very healthy technique to prepare various fish! Thanx again Chris^_^

  24. Arlene
    April 28, 2011 / 10:47 am

    I love parrot fish………they are very beautiful fish, next time you have to try it, that fish sweet. Great recipe I would eat mine with fungi!

  25. Andrea
    April 26, 2011 / 8:49 pm

    Can't wait to try it but I'd prefer to use headless fish perhaps?! Looks very good though!

    Eek! Just scared myself! I sound like my late Grandma she used to always say "its good though" no matter if it were a perfect gourmet meal or a hot dog..LOL. Keep up the good cooking!

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