Jamaican “Fish Tea” is such a light brothy soup that it’s referred to as tea. Unlike other Jamaican soups, it is clear and cooked with few vegetables and small bony fish. Not to be confused with fish soup, the heavier version of fish tea, it has no dumplings, squash or the thickness of other soups. It is usually served at the start of a meal or as a welcome sip at the start of large celebrations or parties. This would be considered a warm appetizer to wet the palette at a seafood joint before the main course.
The fish of choice for making fish tea is Doctor Fish. This fish has a very distinct taste and is also a fatty fish with very small scales and rubbery skin. This fish is used to make fish tea because of the distinct taste and smell it gives to the soup. The flavor and the taste of doctor fish reminds me so much of my childhood growing up in a seaside town. This was the fish that the fishermen would reserve for the young kids who ran up to the side of the boats as they dragged them ashore. It was our prize for being curious onlookers and tiny cheerleaders of the men and their fresh catch.
As the soup is simple, you will find this recipe super simple as well. As kids we had to learn to remove the bones of fish as we ate but I included the step here to remove them during the cooking process just in case your children are not versed in picking out fish bones on their own. Do not skip that step as doctor fish have many bones that could make this treat a bit hazardous. This soup is a great option for pescatarians as other Jamaican soups are typically heavily laden with meat.
For this recipe you will need:
- Soup Pot
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Small bowl
- 3 Doctor Fish
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 a turnip
- 1/2 a chayote
- 1 small carrot
- 1 large potato
- 2 green bananas
- 2 scallions
- Handful of thyme
- 10 pimento seeds
- 6 okras cut up
- 1 packet Maggi Fish noodles
- 1/2 of a hot scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 Veggie bouillon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Dice turnip, chayote, carrot, potatoes, and bananas (remove skin) in 1 inch pieces. Place the vegetables in a small bowl of water and set aside.
- Bring 10 cups of water to a boil on high heat. Add a heavy pinch of salt to water, about ½ tbsp.
- Once the water is boiling, add garlic, turnip, chayote, carrots, green bananas and fish to the water and allow them to cook for roughly 10 minutes.
- After 10 mins, remove the fish from the water and place on a plate. Keep the fire on high heat. Remove the head of the fish and the middle bone running through the center. At the opening of the belly of the fish, you will find a row of longer bones. Remove them as well. Discard all the bones and return the fish to the water.
- To the boiling veggies, add in scallions, thyme, pimento, hot pepper, okra and potatoes. Cook for about 5 minute or until the scallions begin to break down.
- After 5 minutes, add in noodles, bouillon cube and salt & cracked pepper to taste. Continue to cook for about 6-8 minutes until the flavors develop and all the veggies are fork tender. Remove from heat and serve hot.
- This is a quick-cook soup. Unlike other soups that will take hours to make, this one will not.
- The veggies should stay whole in the soup because the more they break down, the thicker the soup will become. Remember the aim is to keep the broth as clear and light as possible.
- I did not add dumplings or pumpkin to the soup. Pumpkin will color the soup and that is not what we want. Dumplings generally belong in a heavier soup but if you would like dumplings in here, keep them on the smaller size.