Fruit of the sea
Chefs from all over the world know just how great Chillies are with seafood. Be it Piri Piri prawns from Mozambique, Moqueca de peixe and Vatapa from Brazil or Tom yum Goong from Thailand., one thing you can be certain about, these dishes will just be brimming with flavour.
In this section, we explore some exciting cuisine from around the world, where squid, prawns, shellfish and a whole lot more are combined with Chillies for some great eating.
Recipes for seafood with Chillies
Where to find good seafood with Chillies?
Some of the best cooks of seafood are the fishermen that catch it. They, more than most, know just what a difference really fresh seafood makes to a dish. Some of the best seafood recipes are for dishes that fishermen have perfected while cooking their own food. Many of these recipes have Chillies in them for no other reason than they are excellent together.
Usually because of limited space (particularly on a small boat out at sea), these recipes will take the form of seafood stew. These stews can contain a mixture of fish, prawns, squid or whatever is to hand. A good example of this type of dish is this authentic Irish Fishermans stew. This particular recipe combines fish, mussels, clams and calamari with tomatoes, Chillies and fish stock. It can however be made using a firm fleshed fish alone. It is also pretty good being made with only shellfish, prawns, or any other combinations of any similar seafood.
One of the advantages to the fisherman for this type of meal is that they can use seafood which they know is less likely to fetch a good price ashore. They don't have to risk throwing unwanted fish etc back into the ocean (with the possibility of fatalities).
Who did it first?
One of the first fishermen to combine seafood and Chillies would probably have been the Taino people of the Caribbean. Considering the Taino, who were the first to carry
Chillies to the Caribbean by sea thousand years ago, were probably also great fishermen , the scene is set. It doesn't take too much stretching of the imagination to picture them combining the two for some of the first spicy seafood.
They had the background to do this. The Taino were part of the Arawak speaking tribes. The Arawaks are believed to have come from an area between Bolivia and Peru. This area is thought to be the birthplace of the Chillies. It also has fantastic seafood resources. These two factors meant that they were well-equipped to make some delicious seafood dishes.
Popularising seafood with Chillies
The country that was most instrumental in popularising Chillies around the world was Portugal. This great seafaring nation introduced Chillies to many parts of the world, including their own colonies. Not surprisingly, many of these colonies had rich seafood resources. After all, the Portuguese would have reached these places by sea.
It would not have taken cooks very long to discover the unique qualities that Chillies bring to seafood. In Mozambique, prawns began being served with Chillies in Piri-Piri Prawns. In Goa, the Portuguese colony in India, various seafood dishes like Kullyanche Tonak (curried crab), Goan seafood curry (with prawns, scallops, fish, chillies and coconut milk) and Balchão ( fish or prawns pickled in a fiery tomato and Chilli sauce) got their first introduction to Chillies. Similarly, Ikan Pepes (spicy steamed fish in banana leave) was first flavoured with Chillies in East Timor (another Portuguese colony).
Brazil is, of course, another country Portugal colonized. With its Moqueca Capixaba (a spicy fish stew from the Espírito Santo region made with white fish, tomatoes, onions, lime juice annatto, garlic, coriander and Chillies), Bobó de camarão (a prawn stew with cassava, Chillies, onions, bell peppers, coconut milk and other ingredients), and Moqueca de peixe com camarão (a seafood stew with salmon, prawns, coconut milk, chillies, bell peppers, onions and other ingredients). Brazilllin seafood with Chillies is exceptional
What about today?
Today, it is in Peru, part of the area that the Arwacks set out from, that you will find genuinely outstanding seafood with Chillies. Peru has access to one of the world's richest seafood carrying currents, and has some of the world's finest Chillies. Peruvian chefs combine the two masterfully in Ceviche. Typically, Ceviche is made with Aji Amarillo and a super fresh, firm-fleshed fish like Tuna. The fish is marinated in citrus juice, onions, garlic and other ingredients until it is "cooked".
This is not cooking in the usual sense of the world. Cooking in Ceviche terms means the Citrus alters (denatures) the protein structure in the fish meat to change its colour and flavour. The effect is the same as using heat, except it is done with acids like lemons or limes. When eaten, the fish does not taste raw at all, even though it has not even seen a stove. A truly outstanding dish
While the Taino as a distinct group has virtually disappeared in the Caribbean, one thing that has not gone away is combining seafood and Chillies. Fusion dishes created with African and Taino influence are very much part of what is eaten in the region today. Dishes like Jamaican Grilled Peppered shrimp (panfried prawns with Scotch bonnets, garlic and vinegar), Jamaican Roast Jerk Fish (grilled fish with a jerk sauce and Okra), Escovitch Fish (grilled fish with spicy vinegary dressing made with Scotch bonnets, bell peppers, carrots and onions) and Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish ( stir-fried rehydrated cod and spicy Ackee, a fruit from Jamaica) are prepared with Chillies
What fine eating!