The Jamaican style escoveitch fish and festival is a popular dish savored by many with some of the best being prepared at the Hellshire beach in Portmore, St. Catherine.
The style “escoveitch” was introduced into Jamaica in the 16th century, during the time of Spanish settlement of the island, from the original Spanish word was “escabeche”, meaning pickled.
In a time when no one had electricity, it was a dish that could be prepared beforehand and left for a day or more without spoiling. Just about any type of fish can be used – it’s fried and then covered with a spicy escoveitch sauce which preserves it. I can recall one of the things we used to do in preparation for a huricane if you had fish in the fridge is to take them all out and escoveitch them in order to prevent waste when the light goes out. We’ll eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Fish is especially popular during Lent, and on Good Friday in particular.
The Jamaican pickled pepper sauce would give you that extra kick of heat on your fish. While the pickled pepper is mostly eaten with fish prepared in different forms, it can be enjoyed with almost anything. I sometimes soak up a little with the festivals.
Fried dumplings can be made with or without sugar. When mixed with sugar, cornmeal and baking powder and fried, this variation is called festival. This style of cooking dumpling we adapted from the Akon cuisine of Bofrot, with the exclusion of vanilla and yeast. It is a delicious compliment to any meat and enjoyed with fish of all types. If you don’t catch yourself you may end up eating a dozen of these bad boys all by themselves and not remembering wait on the fish to finish cooking.