Pescado Encocado - this simple dish is cooked all along the coastal regions of Ecuador, particularly in the north. It consists of big chunks of tender white fish in a generous sauce of creamy coconut milk with tomato, peppers, onions and citrus juices. What a delicious way to get more fish into your diet.
This month for our Eat the World Recipe Challenge we head down to South America and stop at the equator to visit the coastal country of Ecuador tucked between Colombia and Peru in the northwest corner of the continent. Ecuador may be one of the smallest countries in South America, but its geography is varied and its cuisine is gastronomically diverse. The country is comprised of 4 areas: the coastal region, the Andean highlands, the Amazon jungle region, and the Galapagos Islands, with each area boasting its own style of cooking and a wide array of culinary specialties.
Everywhere in the country you'll find hearty, exciting cuisine rich in meat or fish, rice, potatoes, and fruits.
- Beef, chicken, and fish are popular along the Ecuadorian coast. Seafood features heavily in coastal cuisine, with ceviches and encocadoes (dishes cooked in a coconut milk sauce) being very popular. Meals generally always include a starchy side such as potatoes, rice, or plantains, and a wide variety of fruit is available at lower altitudes.
- The cooking of the mountainous highlands consists of roasted meats or rich dishes containing pork, chicken, beef, or guinea pig, usually served with rice, corn, or potatoes. Hearty soups and stews are popular.
- In the Amazon regions, a staple of the diet is the yuca (cassava). This starchy root is prepared in many different ways. An abundant variety of tropical fruits is also a large part of the jungle cuisine.
- The Galapagos islands (1000 miles off the shore of Ecuador) boast a cuisine with seafood galore (outstanding ceviche is king here), augmented by a wide assortment of native tropical fruits.
Potatoes, rice, corn, and plantains are a staple throughout all regions, as well as tropical fruits. The food of Ecuador generally isn't spicy, but a bottle of the local hot sauce can be found at every table to add your own heat level when dining. Ecuadorians tend to have a 3-course main meal at lunch, consisting of a soup course followed by a meat or fish main accompanied by a starchy side dish, and finishing off with dessert and coffee. Dinner is a lighter meal.
Pescado Encocado is a Delicious Traditional Dish
I was drawn to the exciting gastronomy of Ecuador's coastal region. I'm always looking for tasty ways to incorporate more fish into our diet. This recipe is a keeper. The big chunks of tender white fish swimming in a generous sea of creamy coconut milk sauce make this an outstanding dish. The sauce is richly seasoned with flavourful spices, fresh citrus, and finely diced vegetables. The warm red colour comes from achiote (annatto) powder, a mild spice ground from the seeds of an evergreen shrub and used mainly for its colouring properties. Sweet paprika makes a good substitute if you can't find achiote.
Corvina, a type of sea bass, is the typical fish used in this dish in Ecuador, but any firm-fleshed white fish will work equally well (cod, haddock, snapper, sea bass, tilapia).
A shower of chopped cilantro and grated fresh (or dried) coconut over the finished plate adds a tasty counterpoint. Pescado Encocado isn't spicy, but you can customize the heat level by adding sliced fresh or dried red chili to each serving, if desired. Traditional accompaniments are rice and fried plantain slices.
So let's do some armchair traveling and head to the tropical shores and sunny beaches of Ecuador. Let's pretend we've stopped at a palm-roofed open air restaurant as we walk barefoot along the sand. Let's pull up a chair at a little table in the shade, order a tall fruity drink and a plateful of this luscious Pescado Encocado made with the freshest of the day's catch. Let's sit there and enjoy every bite as we watch the sun slowly set over the silver waves lapping gently along the beach and feel the rippling evening breezes caress our sun-warmed skin.
I could sure go for that, couldn't you?
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Pescado Encocado - Ecuadorian Fish in Coconut Sauce
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium red or white onion finely chopped
- 1 red or yellow sweet bell pepper finely diced (¼-inch/.5cm)
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika or achiote powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 4 plum (Roma) tomatoes, cored and diced (½-inch/1 cm)
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- juice of 1 orange ~4 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- juice of 1 lime ~2 tablespoons
- 1 can (14oz/400ml) full-fat premium coconut milk
- 1½ lbs (700gms) firm-fleshed white fish, skinless & boneless (cod, haddock, snapper, sea bass)
- large handful chopped fresh cilantro
optional, for serving:
- shredded unsweetened coconut fresh or dried
- sliced red chili pepper or dried red chili flakes or set the hot sauce bottle onto the table for diners to use if they wish
- cooked rice
- fried plantain slices
- Set the rice on to cook.
- Heat the oil in a shallow wide heavy-bottomed pot, braiser, or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the finely diced onion and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly cooked but not browned.
- Add the minced garlic, spices, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes, orange zest and juice, and lime zest and juice. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and bring the sauce to a boil.
- Cut the fish into large chunks (about 2-inches/5 cm) and add it to the sauce, spreading it out evenly in the pan. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat without lifting the lid and let it rest for 5 more minutes. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh cilantro, reserving some for garnish.
- While the encocado is cooking, fry plantain slices in shallow oil til lightly browned on both sides. Set onto paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt.
- Serve the Pescado Encocado with cooked rice and the fried plantain slices. Sprinkle it with chopped fresh cilantro, shredded coconut, and thinly sliced chili pepper or a pinch of dried chili flakes if you'd like the dish spicier.
- Serves 4.
Check out all the wonderful Ecuadorian dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Ecuadorian Lentil Stew with Rice (Arroz con Menestra de Lentejas)
Magical Ingredients: Tortillas de Verde
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Fritada de Chancho
Sneha’s Recipe: Come y Bebe (Ecuadorian Fruit Salad)
Pandemonium Noshery: Fritada - Ecuadorian Pork
Kitchen Frau: Pescado Encocado (Fish in Coconut Sauce)
Sugarlovespices: Ecuadorian beef skewers & potato pancakes
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Check out my past ‘Eat the World’ Recipe Challenge posts:
(in alphabetical order)
- Argentina: Red Chimichurri Sauce
- Australia: Anzac Biscuits (Crispy Oatmeal Cookies)
- Bangladesh: Chingri Masala (Shrimp Curry)
- Bulgaria: Patatnik (Savoury Potato and Cheese Pie)
- Cambodia: Noum Kong (Cambodian Rice Flour Doughnuts)
- China: Kung Pao Chicken
- Colombia: Pan de Yuca (Warm Cheese Buns)
- Egypt: Fava Beans and Feta
- England: Gluten Free Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas
- Ethiopia: Four Ethiopian Recipes for a Fantastic Feast
- Fiji: Spiced Sweet Potato and Banana Salad
- Finland: Lohikeitto (Creamy Salmon, Potato, and Dill Soup)
- France: Axoa d’Espelette (A Simple Stew from the Basque Country)
- Georgia: Charkhlis Chogi (Beets with Sour Cherry Sauce)
- Greece: Moussaka
- Guyana: Fried Tilapia in Oil & Vinegar Sauce (fish dish)
- Hungary: Túrós Csusza (Pasta Scraps with Cottage Cheese)
- India: Kerala Upma (Fluffy, Kerala Style Breakfast Upma Recipe)
- Iraq: Tepsi Baytinijan (Eggplant & Meatball Casserole)
- Ireland: Dublin Coddle (A tasty Sausage and Potato Stew)
- Israel: Cucumber, Feta, and Watermelon Salad
- Jamaica: Rice and Peas (Coconut Rice and Red Beans)
- Japan: Chawanmushi (Steamed Savoury Egg Custard)
- Kenya: Maharagwe with Ugali (Red Beans with Cornmeal Slice)
- Laos: Ping Gai (Lao Grilled Chicken Wings)
- Lesotho: Chakalaka & Pap (Veggie & Bean Stew with Cornmeal Polenta)
- Luxembourg: Stäerzelen (Buckwheat Dumplings)
- Mexico: Cochinita Pibil Tacos (Pit Barbecued Pig to Make in Your Oven)
- Netherlands: Boerenkool Stamppot (Kale-Potato Mash with Sausages & Pears)
- New Zealand: Classic Pavlova
- Poland: Polish Honey Cake
- Portugal: Tuna and Sardine Pâtés
- Puerto Rico: Piña Colada Cocktail
- Scotland: Cranachan (Raspberry, Whisky & Oat Cream Parfaits)
- Senegal: Mafé (Beef and Peanut Stew)
- Sudan: Peanut Butter Creamed Spinach & Peanut Meringue Cookies
- Sweden: Swedish Meatballs with Cream Gravy
- Switzerland (Christmas): Basler Leckerli Cookies
- Thailand: Shrimp Laksa (Khung)
- Trinidad & Tobago: Peanut Butter Prunes
- Ukraine: Buckwheat Kasha with Beef
- United States (Soul Food): Smothered Pork Chops
- Uruguay: Torta de Fiambre (Baked Ham & Cheese Sandwiches)
- Vietnam: Caramelized Pork Rice Bowls