Jamaican Fried Escovitch Fish
Escovitch Fish is our most popular style of cooking fish in Jamaica. It is made simply by rubbing a small amount of black pepper and salt all over the fish and then frying it to a golden brown.
The most common fish used is whole snapper or in Jamaica parrot fishes common and popular however, sliced King fish or even fish fillet can be used as well. After it is cooked, a spicy sauce made primarily from vinegar, scotch bonnet peppers, onions, Carrots, green peppers, and pimento berries called Escovitch Sauce is made to pour over the fish to be served.
Some people do a slightly sautéed version of the sauce using a small amount of the fish oil and some just do a raw pickled version. Either way is good.
For all of us who are Jamaicans, we know that the best place to get Escovitch Fish in Jamaica is at Hellshire beach. For some unexplainable reason it is almost impossible to replicate a Hellshire beach Escovitch fish and not to mention the festival to go with it.
Jamaicans who now live abroad purposefully make a Hellshire visit in their plans when visiting Jamaica for this unique fish and festival combination that can’t be found anywhere else tasting this good. I know this because my husband and I, as well as our friends, did the same when we lived away.
This is my homemade version of Escovitch fish which is not Hellshire but I think it comes close. If you love fish and spicy food, this recipe is for you and even if you are not a fish lover, you may change your mind once you eat this.
Ingredients for Fried Jamaican Escovitch Fish
- Fish – I prefer Snapper or Parrot, however other fish of choice may be used. If using fillet fish, that is fine. It can be done with or without a flour batter and cooking time will be less.
- Black Pepper
- Oil – for frying (not pictured)
- Carrot Sticks
- Scotch Bonnet Pepper
- Pimento Berries
The best fish to use is usually whole fish such as Parrot, Snapper, or Butter fish. However, sliced fish can be used as well as fillet fish, however your cooking time may vary. Also, the amount of pepper you use is up to your individual preference depending on how spicy you want it. For less spice, you can also use less of the scotch bonnet seeds.
Preparation for Jamaican Fried Escovitch Fish
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- The fish is washed well in a large bowl and pat dry. Cut slits in the belly if using whole fish.
- When ready to fry, use a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat and rub a moderately small amount of salt and black pepper mixture all over the fish before frying. (you don’t want it too salty).
- Fry a few minutes on each side until golden brown and well cooked. If using fillet, you have the option of dipping it in flour before frying as I sometimes do, it will also require less frying time.
- As the pieces cook, remove them to a paper towel lined platter until they are all finished.
- The escovitch sauce is made after the fish is cooked, using a small skillet and a little of the fish oil along with the other ingredients. This is the way I like it, however, some people prefer to make an uncooked version using the same ingredients minus the fish oil.
- We usually leave the fish seperate from the sauce initially so we can heat up the fish in the oven or air fryer when ready to eat and drizzle the sauce on top.
- However, some people will place all the fish in a glass dish and pour the sauce on top until ready to serve. I do this when packing away the leftovers as it will also stay longer in the fridge for about 3-4 days once it is covered in sauce.
8. You may also want to double the sauce amount.
9.This goes well with festival, white rice or any side of choice.
Jamaican Fried Escovitch Fish
- 4 Medium Fish Whole or sliced about 3 Lbs.
- 2 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Black Pepper
- * 1 Cup Flour * For Fish Fillet
- 1 Cup Oil
- 1 cup Onions Sliced in circles
- 1/2 cup Carrot julienned
- 1/2 Small *Green or red bell pepper (optional) julienned
- 10 Pimento Berries
- 1/2 Cup Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. Sugar
- 1 Scotch Bonet Pepper Sliced with half of seeds. All seeds for spicier and no seeds for milder flavor.
- 3 Tbsp. Fish Oil Cleaned (if doing sautéed version)
Clean fish well by removing all scales and washing with vinegar and water.
Combine salt and pepper mixture in a small dish.
Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat, add oil and make sure oil is really hot before starting.
Pat dry fish with paper towels. With fingers semi-wet, dip in salt and pepper mixture and rub all over fish evenly.
Place fish in oil as you season. Cook 5-6 minutes on each side and make sure thoroughly cooked before removing.
Remove fried fish to a wide dish.
**For fish fillet version, combine flour with salt and pepper. Don't dry fillet with paper towels. Dip fillets in flour mixture and fry 2-3 minutes on each side.
Cut all vegetables and put aside.
If using sautéed method, once all fish is finished frying clean out as much of the dark residue as you can from the oil.
Turn heat to low, add vegetables, pimento, vinegar and sugar. Simmer about 2 minutes. Pour over fried fish.
If using pickled method, dilute vinegar and sugar together, add rest of the ingredients. Pour over fish.
serving suggestions white rice or rice & peas or festival or bammy or a nice salad.