Caribbean-Spiced Steamed Fish
By Adrian Forte
Banana leaves are an integral part of food preparation in a lot of cuisines. In the Afro-Caribbean community, they can be used for barbecuing, baking, or steaming. The most common use is for a dessert called duckanoo or blue draws, which is essentially a Jamaican tamale.
I drew inspiration from duckanoos for this recipe, using the banana leaf as my vessel and steaming as my cooking method. This method gives your fish a smooth, silky texture and adds a nutty flavor and captivating aroma from the robust smell of the leaves. “Dunckanoo-style” has become my favorite way of preparing fish.
PREP: 5 MIN
COOK: 15 TO 20 MIN
- 2 (6 oz) fish fillets (such as snapper, halibut, or sea bass)
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tsp ground allspice 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg 12 thin lemon slices
- 4 (12-inch-square) pieces fresh or frozen and thawed banana leaf
- In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Cut the fish fillets in half vertically and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the canola oil, allspice, salt, pepper flakes, fresh thyme, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Using your hands, mix very well to ensure the fillets are all evenly coated.
- Place three lemon slices, slightly overlapping, in the center of each banana leaf piece. Place one half fish fillet on top of each set of lemon slices. Fold each leaf over on top of the fish to enclose it.
- Place the packets, folded side down, in a bamboo basket and cover. Place the bamboo basket over the saucepan and steam for 15 minutes.
- Serve each parcel, open, on a plate with some Peruvian purple potato mash , or some Coconut Milk Mash , Trinidadian Corn Pie , or Okra Pilaf.
Note: Alternatively, if you don’t have a bamboo basket, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the packets, folded side down,on a baking sheet.Place a skillet, pan, or steel bowl with 2 cups boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Add the baking sheet with the fish packets on the top rack. Bake for 20 minutes, until the water has evaporated.
Adrian Forte is a chef and culinary consultant for a wide range of clients and brands, and operates YAWD, a modern Caribbean pop-up restaurant (which garnered incredible reviews for the much-needed island vibes it brought to Toronto during the pandemic). Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Adrian moved to New York City in 2003, where he attended high school, and then to Canada, where he studied culinary arts at George Brown College in Toronto. Upon graduating, he became the executive chef at Gangster Burger and Rock Lobster, one of the co-founders of Dirty Bird Chicken & Waffles, owner of AF1 Caribbean, behind the menu development of Aunty Lucy’s Burgers and guest chef at Café Boulud at the Four Seasons. Adrian uses his platform to champion the importance of Afro-Caribbean cuisine, and has been an integral voice in Canadian hospitality’s movement toward a more equal and inclusive future.
Excerpted from Yawd by Adrian Forte. Copyright © 2022 Adrian Forte. Photography by John Molina. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.