Escovitch fish is a popular Jamaican dish of whole fried fish that is marinated in a fiery-vinegary pickle made of onions and vegetables, overnight, and served as a breakfast dish. It is very popular as a meal for lunch too when served with rice and peas.
Various cuisines around the world have a similar dish;
the ingredients for the pickle vary depending on the local staples available.
I like the idea of Escovitch fish but the first time I ate it, I found the dish a little too acidic for my taste. I prefer it topped with the pickle and some of the pickling liquid ladled over the hot fried fish to be eaten shortly thereafter.
However, fried fish and some sort of pickle or hot sauce like pepper sauce go so very well together, therefore, I decided to do my own thing when I brought home some fresh red snapper and cavalli fish. I seasoned and fried the fish whole and made a pickle of veggies and mango. It was like having a salad with the fish. Here’s how to make it.
● ½ cup distilled vinegar
● 2 level tablespoons sugar
● ½ teaspoon table salt
● 1 cup sliced sweet peppers (red & green cut into ¼-inch thickness)
● 1 cup shredded cabbage
● 1 large half-ripe mango, peeled and flesh sliced into ¼-inch
● Minced hot pepper to taste
Fo fried fish:
● 1 whole fish (about 1 – 1½ – 2 pounds), gutted, washed clean and patted dry
● 2 tablespoons freshly made green seasoning
● Salt and pepper to taste
● All purpose flour
● Oil for deep-frying
1. Add the vinegar, sugar and salt to a non-reactive saucepot and place on medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt and let the mixture come to a boil. When it comes to a boil, let it cook for 1 minute then remove from heat. Taste the pickling liquid to ascertain if it suits your taste; adjust it by adding more of either of the ingredients stirring to dissolve and mix well while still hot. Set aside to cool completely.
2. Add the sweet peppers, cabbage and mangoes to a bowl and toss to mix. Add as much or as little of the pickling liquid as you like and toss well to mix. Set aside the pickle to cure; you can leave it at room temperature or refrigerate it if you will not be using it within an hour.
For fried fish:
1. Score the fish in 2 – 3 places on both sides (this is to facilitate seasoning).
2. Rub the fish all over (inside and out) with the green seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and marinate at room temperature for ½ hour. If marinating for longer, refrigerate. You will need to bring the fish up to room temperature before cooking it if you had it refrigerated.
3. Add oil for deep-frying into a karahi, wok or deep-frying pan and place on medium heat until very hot but not smoking. While the oil is heating up, dust the fish with flour and set aside until the oil is ready.
4. Lower fish into hot oil and fry until brown and cooked on one side, turn and cook the other side until brown cooked through.
5. Remove fish from pan and drain on paper towels. While still hot, transfer the fish to a platter and top with the pickled vegetables, add some of the liquid from the pickle as well. Serve hot.
● Carrots, onions and green pawpaw can be a part of the vegetables for the pickle.
● If using mangoes, it is important to use half-ripe mangoes as they will have the right balance of sweetness and tartness.
● Apple cider vinegar can be used in place of regular distilled vinegar.
● Choose a fish you like but choose a size that will fit neatly in your frying pan or pot. If you like, you can opt for a large fish and then have it cut into very large pieces. Remember to score the pieces too so that you can season the fish properly.
● You may need to use more green seasoning depending on the amount of fish you are cooking.
● If you prefer not to deep-fry the fish, you can pan (shallow) fry but note that it will take longer for the fish to cook.
● The cooking time for the fish will vary depending on the size of the fish.
● Serving suggestion, you can remove the fillets of the fish and serve with the pickle if you or your guests prefer not to contend with bones.