Friday, December 26, 2008

Caribbean "Fish n' (Banana) Chips"

This edition of the Royal Food Joust has a Caribbean theme!

What good timing. There has been a ton of snow for the past week, very unusual for Vancouver. Our "snow" usually becomes liquid as soon as it touches the ground. But this time, there may be around one and a half feet of snow! The snow made a lot of things difficult, especially for my feet which had to get and stay wet for several hours everytime I went out (seeing as I don't have winter boots because it doesn't snow in Vancouver!).

(And now, after thinking that the snow has stopped -- no snow yesterday, and snow already on the ground melting -- it is snowing again right now, as I'm typing!)

But, I digress. The winner of this Joust will be receiving a copy of Cynthia's cookbook, My Caribbean Cookbook: Tastes Like Home. The ingredients are coconut (or coconut milk), rice and banana/plantain.

We don't really know much about Caribbean food, save making jerk chicken now and again. We were a little stuck on this one. Finally, we thought to put an "island" spin on a traditional English favorite.

For this Royal Food Joust, we bring you Fish n' Chips. Actually, that's Caribbean "Fish n' (Banana) Chips"! (Told you I love using quotations marks: here, here, here, here.)

We have Caribbean-spiced rice flour-battered fish, banana "chips", and a coconut-lime tartar sauce.

Coconut-Lime Tartar Sauce

We start with the easiest component. For this sauce, we used approximately half mayonnaise and half coconut milk. We added chopped pickles, lime zest and lime juice.

Caribbean-spiced Battered Fish

We used rice flour for the batter. Our "Caribbean" flavorings included allspice, dried thyme, black pepper, salt and chili flakes. I added enough water to make it a batter consistency. To the fryer!

Ordinarily, tilapia would not be our first choice. My preferred way of eating tilapia is grilled whole and I was suspicious of tilapia already filleted.

We wanted to get cod fillets, but the cod available on our shopping day looked too raggedy for use. Plus, TS smelled them and they didn't smell all that fresh.

We also looked at the snapper fillets, snapper being a fleshier fish than tilapia, but they looked raggedy as well.

The tilapia was the best-smelling of them all. As in, they didn't smell fishy at all.

The rice flour batter made the fish fillets über-crispy!

Banana "Chips"

The real star of the dish are the banana chips. Which is interesting because we thought bananas were going to be our downfall.

Now, we had some problems with the banana as well.

When we were bouncing off ideas for our Joust entry, we knew we wanted to go savoury this month. We know we had to overcome what we now call as the "nam-nam" nature of the banana.

Ripe bananas are too nam-nam: when we bite into one, it will just engulf all our mouths in a kind of cottony, slightly gluey, very ripe sweetness. Delicious as a snack, of course, but in a savoury dish, we don't know how we could overcome it.

left: bananas as unripe as possible (it was greener in real life)
right: bananas sprinkled with ground coriander, paprika, salt & pepper

The only times that bananas are not "nam-nam" are when they are unripe or as banana chips.

Chips, you say, eh? That's when we decided to play with the traditional fish and chips concept.

Oh, unripe bananas are just plain weird. The word in Tagalog is "mapakla," and unfortunately, I have yet to find an English word that comes close to describing the taste sensation of the unripe banana. It's slightly bitter, slightly bland -- I don't know -- it's just plain weird.

But, I thought that having bananas as unripe as possible would be the best way to go for our "chips" (and I mean that in the chips=fries way, not the crisps=chips way), like unripe plaintains.

Forgive the long segue.

We tried cutting the bananas several ways. We went more like the normal shape for dehydrated banana chips but found it just couldn't hold up to the fryer.

Finally, we just settled to halve the banana vertically in the hopes that it will retain its shape better. We sprinkled ground coriander, paprika, salt and pepper. We didn't want to coat it in batter first because we thought then it would be like the fish.

But coating the bananas was definitely the way to go. The bananas were super crispy, salty-spicy on the outside and soft-sweet on the inside.

On the right is a plated version of the dish and on the left is the version wrapped in a newspaper cone.

For a third-choice fish, the tilapia turned out pretty well. The rice flour batter really crisped them up, and the inside was nicely white and tender.

My only complaint was that it wasn't fleshy enough à la traditional fish and chips -- and, erm, well, it's tilapia. When doing tilapia, the best way really is to have it whole and grilled. That brings out the deliciousness of the fish. Any other way it seems to me just gives ammunition to all the tilapia naysayers out there. Unfortunate, I say.

Of course, I loved our banana "chips"!

Frying the bananas got rid of the nam-nam-ness: instead of gluey sweet, the bananas turned almost-gooey-meltingly sweet. I loved the spicy, salty spices in the batter and I loved the crispiness of the "chip" too!

The coconut-lime tartar sauce was good on both the fish and the banana chips.

The whole is yum-yum.


Coconut-Lime Tartar Sauce
Makes approximately 1 cup

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped pickles/cornichons
zest & juice of half a lime

Combine all ingredients. Set aside.

Banana "Chips"
unripe bananas
rice flour
salt & pepper
ground coriander

Slice unripe bananas lengthwise.

Make a batter by mixing rice flour and seasonings/spices. (Adjust the amount of seasonings/spices to your taste.) Whisk in enough water to make a batter-like consistency (a little thinner than pancake batter).

Heat oil in a large pan. Coat the bananas in batter and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels when done.

Caribbean-spiced Battered Fish
white, firm-fleshed fish fillets (cod, halibut, or even tilapia)
rice flour
dried thyme
chili flakes
ground allspice
salt & pepper

Make a batter by mixing the rice flour and seasonings/herbs/spices. Adjust the amount of seasonings according to your taste. Whisk in enough water to make a batter-like consistency (a little thinner than pancake batter).

Heat oil over medium/medium-low heat in a large pan. Coat the fish fillets in batter and fry in batches until golden brown. Drain on paper towels when done.

Serve Caribbean-spiced Battered Fish and Banana "Chips" with Coconut-Lime Tartar Sauce and lime wedges.

This is our entry to the Royal Food Joust (created by The Leftover Queen).

[eatingclub] vancouver Royal Food Joust posts:
Dimsum Seafood Trio: Black Pearl Toast, Scallop in Nest, Jewelled Rice Cup
Cream of Fennel Soup with Parsey Oil
Ginger-Guava Jam
Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
Soy Pudding Parfait with Orange-Ginger Syrup and "Streusel" Brittle
Squash Churros with Orange-Sage Hot Chocolate
Coffee Pancakes with Honey Ricotta and Black Pepper & Coffee-Crusted Bacon
Caribbean "Fish & (Banana) Chips"
Steelhead Trout and Enoki Mushrooms with Wasabi Cream Sauce

eatingclub banana
Boiled Saba (Burro Banana) with Condensed Milk
Caribbean "Fish n' (Banana) Chips"
Turon (Philippine Banana Spring Roll)
Minatamis na Saba (Philippine Boiled Saba Banana)

We're submitting this to Culinarty's Original Recipes.

More information here.
The Round-ups here.


  1. I love the idea of coconut lime tartar sauce! And those bananas... yum! Looks wonderful as usual and hope your holidays were warm and spent with loved ones!

  2. I love fried fish and the close-up is to-die-for.

  3. That's a great adaptation.

    You had me at "coconut-lime tartar sauce."

    I've never thought of putting savory spices on fried bananas. What a concept!

  4. I am stumped on how to explain "mapakla" too! (and you got me using quotation marks) :)
    Looks like another award-winning recipe. Great job.

  5. I have to agree with everybody, this one is a winner! A perfect entry for the Joust!

  6. Terrific entry for the Joust. I'm all for savory! That tartar sauce sounds especially good. Good luck!

    Hope you ladies are enjoying the holidays and the snow!

  7. What a great entry for this joust! You guys always do a great job.

  8. I love your version of Fish and "Chips" and the tartar sauce sounds delicious!

  9. What a great idea!! The fried bananas sound really good!

  10. That is such a beautiful dish! I'd be scared to compete against you in the Joust.

    I love your version of the tartar sauce and the bananas look scrumptious.


  11. I totally agree with the nam-nam-ness of bananas, although I love them anyway. One of my favorite desserts is tempura battered banana sprinkled with allspice and brown sugar, and this would totally be the savory hot-boyfriend of that!


  12. Thanks, all!

    Thanks! Happy Holidays to you!

    It was pretty good, actually! I don't think we've tried bananas in a salty/savory setting before as well.

    Lori Lynn:
    Happy New Year!

    Your dishes always look beautiful, Meryl! =)

    Choosy Beggar Tina:
    Haha... "Savory-hot boyfriend."

  13. That coconut lime tartar sauce is fabulous! I can't wait to make it.

  14. I just voted for you. This is such a creative way to go with the ingredients!

  15. I'd go with the Caribbean twist on every fish 'n' chips from now on. You girls did a great job!
    Thanks for sharing them with the Original Recipes Round-Up.

  16. Lore:
    It's always a pleasure submitting something to your event! =)

  17. Use plantains instead of bananas and you will adore the difference. My mother used to make them frequently.

  18. Alicia:
    We haven't actually cooked plantains at home yet. Can't wait to do so, though.


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