Jamaican escovitch fish is a traditional dish that calls for fish topped with tart, spicy pickled vegetables and sauce. Escovitch style was said to originate in Europe, but variations of escovitch can be found in Latin, Arabic or even Asian cooking.
Escovitch fish requires the fish to be fried or pan seared. The fish can be fried whole, cut into pieces or filleted. This dish is traditionally made with firm textured fish like snapper or sea bass fish. But I’ve also had this dish with whole mackerel or even tilapia. For my recipe, I’m using snapper.
Clean and season your fish
Escovitch fish starts with cleaning the fish. Even though I purchased my fish already scaled and cleaned, I like to go the additional step and clean again when I get home. I clean my fish with lime or lemon juice and in cold water. This helps to remove some of the fishy smell. Clean your fish thoroughly, removing any leftover scales, cutting away fins and removing gills. You also want to make sure the inside of the fish is completely cleaned out. Once cleaned, give the fish a final rinse. Then use a paper towel to pat your fish completely dry. I cut my whole fish into 3 pieces; the head part, middle and tail. Make sure you leave enough meat on the part with the head.
Season your fish mix with salt, black pepper, garlic and onion powder, a little paprika and dry thyme and rub all over the fish. Don’t forget to season the inside of it also. Set the fish aside to marinate for 15-130 minutes while you cut and prep the vegetables.
Jamaican escovitch fish, expresses itself with these vibrant colors. I use sweet green and red peppers, chocho, scallions and or onions, garlic, red scotch bonnet pepper to make the pickled vegetables.
You can also add sliced or julienned carrots to this mixture of vegetables. I just didn’t have any at the time. Now that you have your fish and vegetables ready, let’s get to cooking. See the recipe below for instructions.
This dish is great when paired with bammy (cassava cakes), roti or even rice. Have you ever tried Jamaican escovitch fish? If so, how do you make your escovitch and what vegetables do you use for your pickled vegetables. Comment below.
Jamacian Escovitch Fish
- Medium Sauce Pan for the sauce
- Large non-stick pan for frying fish. I used a rectangle electric frying pan
- 2-3 lbs. Snapper fish-whole, sliced or fillet
- 2-3 Tbsp Spice Mixture – see list below)
- 1/2 Cup Sunflower oil (or any seed or nut oil)
- 1 Whole Green sweet pepper-sliced
- 1 Whole Red sweet pepper-sliced
- 2-3 Stalks Scallion-sliced
- 1 Small onion-sliced
- 1 Med Scotch bonnet pepper-chopped
- 2 Tbsp White Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tsp Salt and pepper
Fish Prep and Frying
- Clean fish thoroughly in lime or lemon cold water.
- Cut fish into 3 parts or leave whole (if leaving whole, make 2-3 slit on each side of the whole fish).
- Season your fish. Mix together about 1 tsp each of salt, black pepper and 1/2 tsp of each allspice, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dry thyme. Season fish thoroughly with mixture.
- Marinate fish for 15-30 minutes. If you don't have the time, you can fry immediately.
- Heat sunflower oil to hot before adding fish. If you're using a smaller pan, do not over-crowd. Add only 3 pieces of fish at a time to the pan.
- Fry fish equally on each side for about 5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish or until the skin is crispy, golden brown and the flesh is soft to the touch.
- Remove from frying pan and onto a plate or tray lined with paper towel. The paper towel will catch the excess oil.
Escovitch Pickled Vegetables
- Add extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan over low heat.
- Add sweet peppers, scallions, onion and scotch bonnet pepper vinegar and season with a little salt and black pepper to taste.
- Stir and simmer until you're satisfied with the taste and texture before removing from the heat. I like my vegetables firm so I don't leave it for longer than a few minutes.
- Pour the sauce over the fish and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
- For extra flavor, you can add a clove or 2 of garlic to your frying pan.
- I like using nut oil, seed oil or light olive oil for frying because of the high smoke point. These oils also don’t change the flavor of the food and most importantly, they’re healthier. The only oil I wouldn’t recommend frying with is flax seed because it has a low smoke point.