How to Make Jamaican Fish Tea (Fish Soup)
What Kind of Name Is "Fish Tea"?
"Fish tea" may seem like an odd name for a fish soup, but there is a reason for this name choice. The reason has to do with the fact that the broth for this soup is very thin, containing only a few ingredients. In Jamaica, where I grew up, it is typically a summertime soup—although I enjoy eating it year-round.
Don’t Let the Name Fool You
Let me tell you what fish tea is not:
- It's not a tea.
- It's not something you drink out of a dainty teacup that is decorated with flowers.
Now let me tell you what fish tea is:
- It's a soup that I enjoy during the summers, especially on a rainy day.
- It’s a fish-based soup laden with lots of delicious goodness in every bite.
When I was growing up in Jamaica, we used the whole fish in this soup. This meant that when we were drinking it, we were constantly looking out for bones.
When I make this soup today, however, I use de-boned fillets. It is much easier to eat, and it's much safer, as well—especially if there are children at the table.
Cook Time and Yield
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 pound pumpkin, chopped
- 6 small potatoes, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 green sweet pepper, chopped
- 1 red sweet pepper, chopped (optional)
- 1 habanero pepper
- 2 to 4 scallions, chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- Your choice of herbs and spices; e.g., cumin, basil, oregano (optional)
- 2 pounds fish fillet (any type)
- 1 (15-oz. can) coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- In a large stockpot, add 8 cups of water and salt. Bring to the boil.
- Add pumpkin. Cook for about 10 minutes to soften the pumpkin.
- Add potatoes, onion, carrot, peppers, scallions, and garlic.
- Add herbs and spices. Boil for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.
- Add fish and coconut milk. Stir well.
- Bring the soup back up to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 30 more minutes.
Habanero Pepper Caution
Do not cut the habanero pepper before adding to the soup. It may become inedible because of the heat factor. Do not touch your eyes after touching a hot pepper.
Add Pumpkin to Boiling Water
Add Remaining Vegetables
Add Herbs and Spices
Add Coconut Milk
Bring to Boil, Then Reduce to Simmer
Note About Choosing the Fish
Any kind of fish can work well for this dish. The choice depends entirely on your preference. I often use snapper, which is a traditional choice for this tea.
If you are purchasing a whole fish, you can simply ask the butcher to fillet it for you. Or it's entirely reasonable to just use the whole fish.
When I was growing up, my grandmother made this soup using the whole fish, head included, with bones. I once had a bad experience when a fish bone became lodged in my throat, requiring medical attention. When I had children, I decided to use fillets to avoid the possibility of this happening to my kids. Now, I am able to enjoy the dish without any anxiety about bones.
Fish: Whole or FilletClick thumbnail to view full-size
Tips on Preparing the Fish
- Wash the fish in water and lemon or lime juice.
- If the fish has scales, remove them by running a knife against the grain of the scales.
- If you are using frozen fish fillets, there is no need to defrost them before adding them into the soup.
Fresh vs. Canned Vegetables
Although I prefer to use fresh vegetables, it's also possible to use canned vegetables for this recipe. Examples of great canned items include:
- Green beans
Optional Ingredient: Grace Fish Tea Seasoning
Another ingredient that will enhance the flavor of the fish tea (but is purely optional) is . This is not a required ingredient, but it is one that you may want to consider using—especially if this is the first time that you are making the recipe. It will add body and flavor to the soup, without the need to add other herbs or seasonings. As an aside, this premade seasoning can also be used to season chicken and other meats. Grace Fish Tea Seasoning
Serving SuggestionsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cornmeal Dumplings for Fish Tea
Traditionally, Jamaican fish tea contains dumplings, and when I make this soup I like to include them. If you would like to try making the dumplings, too, I have included a video below that will guide you.
How to Make Cornmeal Dumplings
|Calories from Fat||27|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 3 g||5%|
|Carbohydrates 35 g||12%|
|Sugar 3 g|
|Protein 11 g||22%|
|Cholesterol 26 mg||9%|
|Sodium 330 mg||14%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
From my kitchen to yours!
© 2018 Gina Welds Hulse