Jamaican brown stew is usually done with chicken, beef or pork. However, it is an absolutely delicious way to cook fish. The name is telling for this stew. Jamaican Brown Stew Fish is cooked with a caramelized brown sugar base that can come bottled or that you can make yourself by caramelizing sugar in oil. I find that cooking the sugar in oil produces a stew base that is sweeter than it is savory and I don’t prefer that. If you like a sweeter stew base, you can definitely try the brown sugar method.
How to Cook
To brown stew fish, the fish is seasoned and fried first. The fish is then cooked down in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, scallions and thyme. It is cooked just until the skin absorbs the liquid and the veggies break apart. It can be served with rice, dumplings, bananas or even fried dumplings/festivals. I served it with pumpkin rice which is a bonus recipe below. It’s a great meal for any day of the week but is hearty and awesome for Sunday dinners.
Brown Stew fish is made usually with whole fish and for this recipe I am using whole Yellowtail Snappers. This kind of stew can also be made with sliced fish like King Fish, Sea Bass or Mahi Mahi. I prefer not to cook this with filet or fish with the bones removed, as it can easily fall apart. There are two methods for building the sauce. You can build the sauce on the fish, cover it and forget it or you can build the sauce and then add the fish once the sauce has reduced. I prefer to build the sauce without the fish to ensure it is just right and then add in the fish at the end. With this method, you will move the fish a lot less and it will be less likely to break apart.
For Jamaican Brown Stew Fish and Pumpkin Rice, you will need:
- Large skillet
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Medium saucepan (for rice)
- Wire rack
- Baking tray lined with paper towels
- Wooden spoon
- Frying Fish:
- 2 Yellow Tail Snappers
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp old bay
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp white pepper
- Maggi Fish season-up
- 2 cups of oil for frying
- Flavoring oil:
- 2 cloves or garlic (smashed)
- ½ of a scotch bonnet pepper
- Sauce for Stew:
- 2 tbsp of oil
- ½ of a medium onion (sliced)
- 1/4 of a green bell pepper (sliced)
- 1 plum tomato (diced)
- 2 scallions (chopped finely)
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 1 whole scotch bonnet (sliced)
- 1 small carrot (julienned)
- 6-7 okra (sliced on a bias)
- 5 pimento seeds
- 1 tbsp of ketchup
- 1 tsp pickapeppa sauce
- 1 bullion cube
- 2 cups water
- Pumpkin Rice:
- ¼ of a Kabocha Squash peeled and diced
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1 cup of water
- 1 scallion (chopped finely)
- ¼ of an onion (chopped finely)
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme
- 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper (leave whole)
- ¾ packet of Maggi veggie “Soup-it Up”
- 2 cups of Basmati rice washed
- Clean fish making sure all the scales are removed. Wash fish with lime or lemon. Pat dry fish and set aside.
- Combine paprika, old bay, garlic powder, black pepper, white pepper andMaggi Fish season-up in a small bowl. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.
- Place fish on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, score or cut short slits into the flesh of the fish twice on each side making two parallel cuts. Season both liberally with powdered seasoning mix. Ensure that the seasonings go into the slits as well as the cavity of the fish.
- In a large skillet, heat oil on high heat with garlic and scotch bonnet to flavor the oil. Once the scotch bonnet and garlic begin to brown, the oil is ready for the fish. You may also use a liquid thermometer to ensure the oil is at about 350-360 degrees.
- Carefully place both fish into the oil and allow them to fry on each side for about 5-6 minutes. Turn the fish once and ensure both sides are cooked. Remove the fish from the oil and set on a wire rack to drain.
- Drain the excess oil from the skillet into a small bowl or container. Reserve maybe 2 tbsp of the oil in the skillet. You may reuse this oil once when frying fish again.
- Place the skillet back on medium high heat. Add onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, scallions, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper. Saute veggies in oil until translucent. Once the veggies are translucent, add water and bullion cube to the pan and give the pan a good stir.
- Add in ketchup, pimento berries and pickapeppa sauce to the pan. Allow the sauce to come up to a boil. Taste the sauce for salt and pepper and add some cracked pepper and salt if necessary. Once the sauce comes up to a boil, add in okra and carrots and cook covered for 2-3 minutes.
- Move the veggies to the side and add in the fish to the pan. Cook the fish covered for 2-3 minutes. Turn the fish once and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Serve with rice. Recipe below.
Instructions for Rice
- Bring coconut milk, water, squash and fresh veggies to a boil on high heat in a medium saucepan.
- Once the squash is cooked, add the soup-it up mix to the pan and give it a good stir.
- Add in washed rice and cover the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated completely from the rice and there are no wet bubbles or wet areas.
- Lower heat to the lowest setting and cover rice. Allow the rice to steam for 10-15 minutes or until the grains soften and open.
- Fluff rice with a fork and serve hot with fish.