As the weather gets cooler and even cold in some countries around the globe, our appetites yearn for warmer foods and beverages increase to keep us warm and cosy. However, ss children of the tropics – with year-round tropical island weather- we have learnt to enjoy soup and hot beverages all throughout the year. So much so that Saturday is “Soup Day” year-round in most Jamaican homes. It’s the day that Chef Lij got assigned to him as a teenager to take on family dinner and since it coincided with market day, he also enjoyed the freshest local and mostly organic ingredients from small farmers around the country. Indeed Saturday Soup Day could be credited for the foundational training of our resident Chef here at Chef and Steward, planting a seed of passion for the culinary arts that has launched a successful career. Of course, his mother had everything to do with empowering him to pursue his dreams so we are eternally grateful for how devoted she was to buying ingredients to fund Chef Lij’s kitchen experiments. Now back to this Fish “Tea” business!
One funny thing about us Jamaicans is that we have weird names for a lot of things. We take normal words and place our own meanings on them and it makes for very entertaining conversations with non-Jamaicans. So yes, this is Fish “Tea” in Jamaica as opposed to Fish “Soup.” I think the origin could be in the consistency of the thing. Jamaican soups are usually a thick, rich affair with lots of “food” or ground provisions (yams, root vegetables, boiled dumplings) and are usually served in bowls with spoons. However, Fish “Tea” is more broth-like in consistency (but can be slightly thicker) and always served in a cup. Hence “Tea.” It is often an appetiser for a party or major event and often sold as part of street food offerings by vendors selling fresh seafood.
Here is our recipe that will certainly add punch to your palate on a cold day. We find that the spicy notes are essential in cutting the otherwise fishiness of the soup.
- 900g/ albs fish head (snapper, butterfish, doctor fish, goat fish, sultan ibrahim, sea bream seabass)
- 3 stalks scallion
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 250g/ ½lb potato
- 100g/ ¼lb okra, thinly sliced
- 3 large onions, quartered
- Handful whole allspice berries
- 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper to taste (substitute with habanero pepper)
- 1 Kallo organic garlic & herb stock cube (substitute with other vegetable stock cube but taste before adding extra salt)
- 1 litre / 4cups/ 32oz water
- 1 tsp sea salt (or add salt if needed, to taste)
- Wash fish head properly in water and half a lime and rinse thoroughly to get rid of the lime flavour.
- In a stock pot, add water, fish, onions, scallion, thyme, garlic, allspice and stock cube.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered with a space in the lid for 90 minutes.
- Add potatoes and whole scotch bonnet pepper then cook for another 15 mins.
- Add sliced okra and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove pepper if you cannot handle too much spice, otherwise, leave it. For added intense heat, puncture the skin of the pepper.
- Pour into small cups and serve immediately.