Growing up in a half Trinidadian household I guess it would be considered weird that I actually never ate smoked herring until I was about 19 while on an extended vacation in Trinidad. My mom says she never cooked to many her traditional dishes because she wasn't sure if we would like it, she pretty much stuck to the traditional Sunday lunch and roti. When I was staying in Trinidad for 6 months with my aunt she introduced me to this wonderful dish. Many Trinidadians consider smoked herring, saltfish, dhal, and the like to be "poor people" food...but many of the most satisfying dishes in the world come out of impoverished situations. In the US collard greens, chitterlings, and ham hocks were weeds and entrails given to the slaves to eat and now its considered a southern delicacy. Anyway back to the smoked herring...so my aunt use to always offer me smoked herring while I stayed with them but it was unfamiliar to me and I wasn't brave enough to try it. One Sunday after she cooked it she insisted that I try it so I finally took a spoonful and guess what...I LOVED IT! It was like a spicy, fishy stew, And I took a plate to eat immediately. Before I left Trinidad to come back home to NY, my aunt made sure to teach me how to make it and even gave me some of her special ingredients to bring back home. I can definitely say this is now one of my favorite dishes, and I try to enjoy it at regular intervals throughout the year. I really need to thank my aunt and cousins for encouraging me to taste so many good things and teaching me to cook numerous Trinidadian dishes during my stay. Here is the recipe for Trinidad style smoked herring. Smoked herring should be available at Asian or other ethnic markets in your area that may stock Caribbean foods. One ingredient I use is called "rookoo", it is the red coloring that comes from boiling fresh annatto seed. Some Trinidadians are not familiar with rookoo and to my knowledge it is not something that is mass produced to export so you may have to go without it unless you can make your own, but don't worry it wont change the taste of the dish if you don't have it.
Trinidad Smoked Herring
makes 4 servings
2lbs smoked herring
1 medium to large onion, cut medium dice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 hot pepper, seeds removed, and minced
2 tomato's, cut to large dice
3 tbsp rookoo, if using
- remove smoke herring from package and soak for 45 minutes in boiling water
- while fish is soaking begin to prepare your other ingredients.
- drain smoked herring and search through smoked herring for excess bones and remove ( you will not get all the bones out, but they are small an thin enough to swallow)
- in frying pan put two tbsp of oil or any fat you prefer
- when oil becomes very hot throw in onion, garlic, and pepper. Saute for one minute
- Add in smoked herrings pieces and saute for 3-5 minutes till onions become translucent
- add in tomatoes and rookoo if using, continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes.
- All finished, enjoy with dhal and rice or just rice alone.
** if the smoked herring is too hot a little brown sugar added in will help cool the fire.