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!
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.
salt & pepper
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)
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
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
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.