Barbados is called “the land of the flying fish” because of the abundance of this species in its warm tropical waters. This fish is a national delicacy and I wish I could hop on a plane and fly down to the island to have it cooked up by the locals.
Instead, I have to settle for buying it filleted, frozen and neatly packaged in a Toronto fish market.
The flying fish is central to the island’s culture. It’s featured on coins, stamps and menus where one can have it fried, steamed or baked. Many tourists come to Barbados to eat the flying fish and I’ve heard many who have been there rave about the flying fish sandwiches. One can buy them freshly made at a food stand near the beach, with the sounds of reggae in the air, along with the local beer or rum to wash it down.
Back in Canada, I tried to explain flying fish to my curious children. No, they don’t actually fly like birds, they glide, but they do have wings. These wings are large pectoral fins that allow them to soar above the water at fast speeds to escape from predators. They are a small fish, the shape of herring, and silvery-blue and can be seen jumping in and out of the temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Just the sight of these fish in the wild would be a treat.
For our Barbados meal I dipped our fish in flour, egg, and cornflake crumbs before frying them in oil. When they were done I garnished them with lime. The fish were flat and crunchy with a mild and succulent flavor. We ate it with cau- cau, a cornmeal and okra mixture that dates back to the island’s African ancestry.
My husband, kids and I loved the fish. We were thankful that we were able to try this tropical delight and national symbol of Barbados. Still, something was lost in the experience while eating it in our kitchen gazing out the window at the autumn leaves blowing across our lawn. I mused just how difficult it was to find the fish in northern North America. I called eleven fish markets in the Toronto area until I heard those marvelous words, “Yes, we’ve got flying fish.”
I didn’t mean to take it for granted but I could only imagine eating fresh flying fish that’s just been bought from a Barbadian open-air stall. Now that I’ve read about this island delicacy and how Barbados is the culinary capital of the Caribbean, I’m determined to make a trip there in the near future to discover some of the other island specialties such as pepper pot and sea-egg.
For now, it’s frozen and packaged, here in Canada, as winter settles in.
Fried Flying Fish
1 lb flying fish
1 1/2 tsp salt
juice of large lime
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small onion
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
dash hot pepper sauce
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cornflakes crumbs
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
oil for pan frying
2 limes quartered for garnish
Season fish fillets with 1 tsp salt and lime juice and set aside for 15 minutes. Drain and pat fish dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix garlic, onion, marjoram and hot pepper sauce together. Rub mixture on fillets. Mix flour, cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper in a bowl. Dip fillets in flour, then egg, then cornflakes crumbs. Heat oil in skillet and cook fillets for 3 minutes on each side. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.