Tapado is one of my favorite dishes anywhere in the world. Most people would consider this a decadent dining experience, to the people in Garifuna fishing villages, it’s lunch a few times a week. For travelers, it’s a steal, with the price ranging from $5 -$10. We snagged this portion for 50 Lempiras, about $2.50. It was during the Garifuna Day celebration and it was meant to be a smaller portion than usual.
Any and all seafood within reach ends up in one pot, creating a thick and savory marine medley. Seafood ingredients included conch, shrimp, lobster, squid, King Crab and the smaller “Jaiba” crab. The fish can be fried whole, then added to the bowl when served, or stewed with the rest of the ingredients. Coconut milk is just as important as the seafood, it gives the dish a distinct flavor and thickens the pot. Any self respecting Garifuna makes their own coconut milk, it’s easy to make and fresh over canned is worth the effort. As with any other Garifuna dish, plantains are also present. The ripe plantains should be very ripe, this sweetens the blend.
This is not for the timid or weak hearted. Yes, that is a fish head staring back at you. It’s a messy meal, don’t wear your Sunday best. Come prepared for shellfish smashing and shrimp peeling. Don’t be shy, get your hands in there and sift for fish bones. If you’re feeling adventurous go for the fish cheeks and eyes. I’m a firm believer that getting down and dirty at the table is the quickest way to gain street cred when you’re an outsider. Paying respect to culinary traditions and showing interest in local culture is an easy way to make friends. Get amongst it!
HOW TO MAKE TAPADO
4 medium size fish per person
4 Lobster tail per person
4 small crab per person
One large King Crab – broken apart
Conch – 2 Lbs. – cubed
Shrimp – 2 Lbs. – peeled and deveined
Squid – 2 Lbs. – chopped
2 Brown Coconuts and 4 cups of hot water for coconut milk
2 Green Plantains – sliced
2 VERY ripe plantains – sliced
3 Garlic Cloves – minced
1 Large Onion – chopped
Ground Achiote (Annato) – 1/2 Tablespoon
Pepper – 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt – 1 Tablespoon
Cooking oil – 1 Tablespoon
Use the coconuts and hot water to make Coconut Milk as instructed in our Machuca post.
Cook garlic, onion salt and pepper in oil until onions soften and become a bit transparent, but not yet browned.
Add coconut milk and ground Achiote. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and add green plantains. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
Introduce seafood and allow to cook for 10 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Serve in a bowl with a limes.