A reader writes that she's looking for escovitch, a traditional Jamaican seafood dish. Escovitch may use any variety of Gulf of Mexico fish, but red snapper is the most common. A whole dressed fish is marinated in lime juice and seasonings then pan-seared in oil. A mixture of sliced peppers, both the fiery Scotch bonnet and sweet peppers, and onions that have been heated in a vinegar base is poured over the fish. The preparation for this dish — and name — is thought to have Middle Eastern origins: el sikba is a meat dish "cooked" in vinegar which became popular throughout the cuisines of the Mediterranean. In Spain, this dish, commonly prepared with seafood, was known as escabeche during the age of discovery and some believe this method of food preparation was transferred to Jamaica. However, the ancient Incas had a recipe which included ceviche spiked with chilies. Escovitch is readily available in Charlotte.
At Mama's Caribbean Grill (1504 Central Ave., 704-375-8414), a Jamaican restaurant, this dish is usually made with red snapper, but the fish may change with availability. The management recommends calling ahead since preparation takes 20 minutes. Escovitch is market price, about $15.50.
Owners Austin and Yvonne Martin at their Austin's Caribbean Cuisine (345 S. Kings Drive, 704-331-8778) prepare exceptional family-recipe dishes in their takeout-only space. Escovitch is usually available, but Yvonne recommends calling. Here, a 2-1/2 pound whole red snapper costs $15 and the seasoning may be modified to taste. Most customers, though, prefer it punched up with slices of Scotch bonnet.
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