Coconut Fish Stew
Updated: Jul 17
From Carla's Comfort Foods: Favorite dishes from around the world
In the West, we’re always trying to pick fish bones out. In this Brazilian stew, I want to keep the bones in. They add great depth and you do discard them before serving in this version. (Word to the wise: the tastiest fish is right on the bones. I like to suck the meat off the bones that are meant to go in the garbage. It’s a treat for me and a way to avoid wasting food!) Because the shrimp and fish cook quickly at the end, you need to develop the stew’s deep flavors first and the bones add a lot to that.
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 whole (1 2/3-pound) red snapper, scaled, gutted, and filleted, bones and head reserved
1/3 cup fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup fish stock or clam juice
1 cup vegetable stock or store-bought unsalted broth
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, snapper fillets, lime juice, two-thirds of the garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven or casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until just translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the chile flakes and remaining garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, clam juice, stock, bay leaf, and fish head and bones and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and fish fillets with their marinade. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the fish and shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Don’t let the mixture boil at this point. The lime juice will cause the coconut milk to break. Season to taste and serve with lime wedges.
A few fishy tips:
Get your fish monger to prepare your fish for you if you don’t want to do it yourself. Often, they’ll sell the fillets already removed from the fish. In that case, ask for the bones they keep stashed in the back.
Marinate the shrimp and fish only as long as the soup simmers. No longer though, or their delicate flesh will start to break down.
Learn more about how to find sustainable seafood for your favorite dishes here!