Boiled fish? Don’t people usually grill, bake or saute their fish? I’ll just label it as one of those crazy island cooking methods. Although strange sounding in its own right, boiled fish is a classic dish that you will find in most island restaurants. Usually served with dumplings and fungi (a side dish made with cornmeal and okra), it is so simple to make but when the flavors come together they are so enjoyable.
Recipes from the Virgin Islands are hard to find, so usually you have to ask your mom or grandmother how she does it, but if you do not have that fortunate luxury, play around with the flavors until you get it just right. I was able to find a recipe for boiled fish to help me along. My mother actually found a couple of books in an island bookstore and mailed them to me. The first was A Taste of The Virgin Islands Cookbook by Angela Spenceley
and the second is where I found this recipe, Famous Virgin Island Recipes by Capt. Jan Robinson
. They are both very thin and look like they would not be found in current print anywhere. Who knew you could find them on Amazon? Between the book and my mom’s knowledge, this is where I landed.
For this recipe, you can use whole fish or fish fillets, but I personally use fillets every time. I am not one for excitedly biting into a meal only to be attacked by my food or finding tiny scales swimming between my peppers. Let’s face it, I may have grown up in the islands, but clean a fish I can not, so this girl takes no chances.
Dumplings are super easy to make and for a shortcut, keep frozen peppers on hand. They are cheap, and frozen is always in season. You can remove your fish fillets before adding the dumplings if your pan is short on space, but make sure you cook the dumplings and the fish thoroughly before serving. When the dish is complete, serve with extra hot sauce to taste. Transfer everything to a plate and don’t forget to get some extra sauce. Although you may be tempted to drink it, don’t. Your family members will look at you strangely… don’t ask me how I know.
Gotta love dishes that only use one pot… can we say easy clean up?
Boiled Fish and Dumplings
2 1 1/2 lb whole fish OR 1 lb fish fillet
1/2 each green and red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp hot sauce or to taste
1/2 cup lime juice, fresh
4 teaspoons baking powder
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Heat butter and milk in a small saucepan just until hot and add to dry ingredients. Bring together and add flour as needed so that the dough is not too sticky and easy to work with.
Roll dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick and cut into squares about 4 inches. Refrigerate until needed.
Scale and wash the whole fish, or use fillets. Season with salt and pepper.
In a pan, saute peppers, garlic, parsley, basil and thyme in butter.
Heat a little oil in a heavy bottom pan, place fish in pan and saute for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook another 5 minutes. Spread vegetable and herb mixture over fish, then cover with onions. Add water, milk and hot sauce. Cook over low heat.
Place the dumplings in fish mixture. Cover and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Add lime juice just before fish is cooked. Do not overcook. Fish should be firm but flakey. Serve with hot sauce to taste.