It looks like a soup, you could call it a broth, but this tasty concoction is known as ‘Fish Tea’ and those who preside over its preparation are convincing when they insist that after one sip you will be caught: hook, line and sinker!
This delectable potpourri will be on display Monday, 23 January, as the 2006 Digicel East End Surf Challenge jet-ski extravaganza winds up its Heroes Weekend activities. Cooks from across the Island will endeavour to charm palates in order to win the Flowers Bottler Water 2006 Fish Tea Cook-off district competition. North Sider Charlie Miller and his team hopes to stay ‘hot’ and repeat last year’s success.
Last year’s runner-up, Huswell Rankine, is widely known as one of the leaders in the ‘tea’ business. It is generally acknowledged that when Mr. Huswell talks fish tea, others listen and begin to salivate. Most of his ‘cook-ups’ are for friends on social occasions, but he says he will put himself up against anybody on Cayman!
He says that fish tea is not to be confused with the traditional ‘rundown.’ While the ingredients are basically similar, the tea essentially is rundown taken to another tasty level.
When rundown is ready for consumption, it contains those delicious chunks of food ready for consumption, whereas with fish tea, all the ingredients are boiled to the point where they become a ‘soupy’ offering with the goodness of those components derived in thick, liquid form.
To make fish tea, one first boils those ground provisions such as yam, pumpkin, cassava, potatoes and bottlers to and until they become very soft. Next comes the fish, which can be as much as 15 pounds in five gallon of tea. It is seasoned generously and then other ingredients such as pepper, carrots, butter and scallion are added and that indispensable coconut milk completes the sumptious line-up.
The entire process can take as much as three to four hours. Diligent stirring prevents sticking and burning and water is added should dilution be desired.
When it is all said and done, there are rumours which abound as to the effects which this fish tea can have on its partakers. Suffice it to say that before the advent of Viagra, there are those who swear as to its ‘miraculous’ powers. Listen to some of the sayings associated with it:
‘If you drink that fish tea, you’ll have to chain yourself to the bed post at night or else you’ll walk all night’;
‘Men who haven’t fathered children all of a sudden produced twins’;
‘Once you take that fish tea you won’t be able to walk a straight line.’
All of this may be legend, but there is one indisputable fact: those who taste the fish tea always seem to come back for more.
Just how often they come back and for how much will determine who comes out as the best cook of fish tea in the land at the Flowers Bottled Water 2006 Fish Tea Cook Off.