Yardie Fishnic

Yardie to the bone, replete with all the seasoning and taste of home.

Story by Ayodele Hippolyte – photos by Christian Torres

Peppa's Jerk Chicken Resturant photo by Ayodele Hippolyte

Finding authentic Jamaican escoveitch fish was the mission and Brooklyn was the hunting ground being home to the largest Caribbean population in the United States. If you’re looking for a true taste of any of the islands (dating experience included here), Brooklyn is where you need to be. So being a Yardie myself, I set out to the Caribbean mecca with my husband (also a Yardie, we tend to be tribal) in tow in search of one of the most Jamaican culinary experiences you can have—escoveitch fish. Our target was Jimbo Jean Restaurant and the name alone had me chomping at the bit.

Escoveitch scales photo©Christian Torres

Brief culinary explanantion necessary here, of course. It is thought that we inherited escoveitch from our Spanish colonizers who have a similar dish called “escabeche”. This dish is prepared by marinating fish, usually red snapper but other similar types are allowed, in vinegar and other spices after which it is either served steamed or fried. I prefer steamed, but believe me, either way is a sumptuous feast of delectable fish filled with spicy flavor along with onions, carrots, and other vegetable goodies you like. You can have escoveitch (Jamaicans don’t bother to add the word ‘fish’ because that’s understood implicitly) by itself or you can have it with another traditional Yardie favorite, rice and red kidney beans which we Yardies call “rice an’ peas”. Rice an’ peas is cooked in coconut milk and spices and is just indescribable in its yummy simplicity when done right.

Escoveitch tail photo©Christian Torres

Anyway, so hubby and I make our way to Church Avenue, advertised site of Jimbo Jean Restaurant, the place for escoveitch. I must digress here for a bit to describe the feeling I had when I entered this part of Brooklyn. I was instantly teleported back to one of Jamaica’s major cities, Spanish Town. The whole vibe and energy of the place was so Yardie that I was flabbergasted. I could not believe that I was literally thousands of miles from home but from all appearances, had never left. Very strange experience, let me tell you. It was as if Jamaicans and other Caribbean people had just unpacked their islands in Brooklyn and resumed their everyday island life. All around me were the accents, the clothes, the self-assured gait of a people who had made themselves at home. And of course, the food, which brings me back on topic.

No Smoking photo©Christian Torres

So we get to Jimbo Jean and find…a pizza joint! Jimbo Jean was no more or had decided to sell escoveitch elsewhere. But the beauty of being in that part of Brooklyn (otherwise known as Spanish Town as I’ve just explained), is that just a few blocks away on Flatbush Avenue was another restaurant that was also known for real Yardie fare—Peppa’s Jerk. Undaunted, hubby and I press on to Peppa’s Jerk which, thank heavens, is there and has not morphed into a pizza place! Peppa’s Jerk is not a sit-down dining experience. It’s a spot where you order and either take away or stand right there and eat your meal. You go in and are immediately assailed by the aroma of all flavors Jamaican and the cook is in plain sight complete with Yardie humor and greeting. My husband was supposed to be ordering escoveitch with me, but was wooed by the oxtail (another major Jamaican favorite). So we get escoveitch, oxtail, and rice an’ peas and head out to Prospect Park for a Yardie picnic.

We have a Jamaican saying for when a meal is well done. We say the meal “eat good”. Well, that escoveitch “eat good”, let me tell you. I had it fried and it was crispy, spicy, everything escoveitch should be. My hubby’s oxtail was succulent and we couldn’t decide which “eat good” better, but I think escoveitch had the edge, man. Yardie to the bone, replete with all the seasoning and taste of home. This meal coupled with the strong scent of marijuana wafting from a nearby group of Rastafarians and the sound of drums from another group chilling in the park transported me to Yardie heaven right there in Brooklyn.

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