My dad says Panama will be the next world power. I know that’s wishful thinking, but we do have some pretty cool stuff going on. Beautiful beaches on 2 oceans, fun-loving people, great music, and let’s not forget what brings you here. The food.
“Puente del mundo y corazon del universo“. This phrase roughly translates to ‘bridge of the world and heart of the universe’ and it is a common phrase amongst Panamanians. Our own private slogan of sorts happens to be true in so many aspects. I think it was originally intended as a reference to the country’s geographical position, but because it is a bridge to the world, you can see the proof in its people and how they do the vodoo they do.
Melting pot doesn’t even begin to describe what’s going on with the people of Panama. This influx of cultures, ethnicities and races is most palpable and pallatable in our foods. When you eat the food there, you’ll quickly pick up on Caribbean, Spanish, Italian, Indian–influences from the world over.
Panama’s favorite, and most readily available fish seems to be the Corvina ~ Stripped Bass. Its perfect white meat, mild taste and abundance is a hit with most everyone. By no means is this dish exclusive to my little gem of the world, but it is something you will find on most every local menu. .
Feast your eyes and your palate. I bring you Corvina Apanada con Patacones (Breaded Stripped Bass with…, well, Patacones). I served the fish with an Escabeche sauce and green fried plantains known as patacones in Panama or tostones in Puerto Rico. Look for that recipe in a separate post.
The sauce is tangy, garlicky and slightly sweet, usually used as a sort of marinade for fish and allowed to macerate overnight. I took the same ingredients and made it into a quick sauce. Don’t worry, you don’t have to fry the whole fish. A couple of breaded fillets will do just fine, but if you’re in the mood for adventure, you may want to give it a whirl.
in a Ziploc bag, combine:
2 medium stripped bass OR 2 large fillets
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
If you’re using the whole fish, cut 2 or 3 slits along both sides, this will help cook the flesh when it’s fried. Toss it around to coat the fish and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
While the fish marinates, you can prepare the sauce.
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2/3 cp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cp white vinegar
3/4 tsp sea salt, to taste
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp habanero, crushed (optional)
Put the oil into a skillet and put over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and bell peppers, cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Once the onions are translucent, stir in the habanero then the vinegar, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Frying the fish
2 cps flour
Oil for deep frying
I like using wax paper or plastic store bags for this part. For the whole fish, just add the flour in the bag and dump the fish in and shake it like crazy. Make sure you get flour into the belly area. Heat up your oil to about 325 degrees, gently drop the fish into the oil. Don’t move it around, allow it to brown for about 5 minutes per side. Pull it out and allow it to rest for a few minutes. Serve with limes and drizzle the escabeche sauce over it. Enjoy!