Antigua and Barbuda

Today I am making a pair of items – fungi(e), the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda, and a Saltfish accompaniment. Pepperpot is another commonly co-served with fungie dish, however I am going with saltfish instead as pepperpot is quote pork-heavy (not unusual for the Caribbean).

For those who prefer to skip to the recipes, I sourced and adapted from two sites – for the fungi I worked off of The Caribbean Current‘s recipe (which also includes a pepperpot recipe if you want to try that) and for the saltfish I based my prep off of CaribVue‘s recipe (which also includes a ducana recipe, traditionally served together on Good Friday).

If you are not purchasing ready-made filet of salted fish (as I was not able to), don’t worry, you can make your own very easily, but this will add an extra 24 hours of waiting to complete the process. It’s super easy to do, just keep this in mind. Whether you use self-made salted fish OR purchased salted fish, there is a LONG soak period as part of prep so again, keep that in mind.

You will need two pots, one pan for this prep.

LET’S DO THIS (fungi):

  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 1.5 cups water (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 4-6 okras, trimmed and cut into buttons or slices to your preference
  • (optional, not traditional) 1 thread of saffron OR a dash of saffron water
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

LET’S DO THIS (saltfish):

  • 1/2 to 2/3 pound saltfish (cod is most traditional but due to cod overfishing and the subsequent price increase in cod, mackerel or other flaky white fish is now also commonly used and may be more readily available to you)
  • Sazón seasoning blend (you can buy this pre-mixed or prepare your own by mixing 1 tsp. each of ground coriander, ground cumin, ground anatto/achiote (can sub with turmeric), garlic powder, salt, and 1/2 tsp. each ground black pepper and oregano)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • (optional, not traditional) 1 habanero pepper
  • (optional) 1-2 sprigs of finely chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • About 1/4 cup cooking oil (something that can hold some heat, so peanut, canola, or safflower are all ok)

IF YOU ARE MAKING YOUR OWN SALTED FISH: purchase about the same weight of whatever fish you intend to use. Cut into roughly 2″ wide pieces and wash thoroughly, dry gently. Heavily coat both sides with salt and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in a pan or dish at least 1.5″ deep and let it go for 24 hours in the refrigerator. About halfway through, drain off the water and re-wrap the fish (as the wrapping will no longer be tight), turning over.

Total prep time (less the salted fish waiting period) for me was about 45 minutes. Your time may vary.

My okra boiling water already has the saffron water added

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Soak the salted fish for 4-8 hours (to preference), changing the water at least once in this period
  • Boil the fish to done + five minutes (will take 20-30 minutes), while this is happening you can prepare your fungi
  • Mix your cornmeal with the 1/2 cup of water to make a paste, set aside
  • Boil the okra in the 1 cup water until nearly cooked through (add the saffron in this step if you are using it), about 10 minutes
  • Reduce heat and gradually stir in the cornmeal paste, stirring or whisking well enough to disperse the paste (so you don’t end up with dumplings/clumps), and continue cooking for about 10 minutes – the mixture should have a fairly firm jelly-like consistency and pull away from the sides of the pan
  • Towards the end, mix in the butter and salt/pepper to taste
  • Traditionally, serving is done by shaking the mixture into a buttered bowl and then inverting to get a nice mound shape, but you can scoop it directly if you’re not going to as fancy of a presentation
  • Pour the water off of your boiled fish and use cold water to stop the cooking/cool – if you’re using actual dry salted fish pick out the bones while you are cooking the vegetables in the next step
  • Cook the onions, peppers (including habanero if adding), and garlic in the pan for 15 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook until onions and peppers are fully cooked and beginning to go translucent to caramel, about another 10 minutes
Note the garlic I failed to add until the next step
  • Add the tomato sauce, spice blend (including cilantro if adding), butter, and fish, simmer for 5-10 minutes.

That’s it! Total time less salted fish prep and soak was about 1 hour, 50 minutes (19:00 to 20:50).

Surprisingly filling even with a small portion