Greetings from Panama!
After living in Europe for the past six years I think I’ve just about culturally adapted to this part of the world by now, but my roots never cease to call back ‘home’ again. I try to plan at least one yearly visit to my home, the Miami Beach of Latin America: Panama City. I come back to see my family and friends, enjoy the warm weather and the gorgeous beaches, re-visit and make new memories; but one of the things I look forward to most forward is the food.
Panama is a blessed country producing all sorts of exotic ingredients. The variety of fruits and vegetables locally grown that you can find here is just amazing, there’s always something new to try out and flavours to discover.
One of my favourite spots and a must-visit every time I come to Panama is the “Mercado de Mariscos”, fish market.
There are two reasons for this:
1: If you’re looking for the freshest fish in town, this is THE place to find it. This market is located right next to the Municipal Pier, providing fresh seafood from very early in the morning every day of the week. Panama is a country surrounded by 2 oceans so it’s no surprise to find several types of fish (red and white snapper, tuna, sea bass), shrimps (when in season), octopus, lobster, etc., all inexpensive, fresh and with the unique flavour only the oceans around here can give.
2:This is also the spot to savour the tastiest local “ceviche”. This is a seafood cocktail which can be made from fish (sea bass), shrimp, octopus or a combination of everything. The fish is marinated together with some pieces of onion in lemon juice acid enough to cook it, a local delicacy worth trying out.
During this last visit, I bought a couple of fresh Red Snappers, which I decided to prepare using a technique called “cooking in an envelope”. I learned it recently while watching an old Jamie Oliver cooking show and it hit me as the ideal method to cook seafood. What I love about this technique is how the food cooks on its own vapours and juices; it will maintain its original flavour but it’s also complimented by the seasonings which are absorbed beautifully.
Oven Baked Red Snapper
For this recipe we will need Red Snapper (4 pieces) and will start by marinating the fish in a combination of:
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons soy sauce
5 chopped garlic cloves
1/2 chopped onion
Handful of chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
In a deep container, combine all of the above and mix together with the red snappers. Pour some water over it until everything is covered. Leave to marinate overnight.
The day after we can get them ready to go in the oven. The idea is to create a closed envelope from aluminium foil by folding the sides. Prepare one envelope for each red snapper.
Place the marinated fish in the middle of the envelope and garnish it with some extra parsley, bell pepper strips, lemon slices, onion rings and a pinch of salt (if you have any hot sauce at home, feel free to add some drops). Close the envelope and place on a baking tray. Do the same for the rest of the snappers.
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove and open the top of the envelope a tiny bit and bake for 10 more minutes. This is just to reduce the juices that have come off and dry up the fish some more.
The resulting Red Snapper is juicy, has gained all the flavour from the seasonings, is soft and easy to eat.
If you have access to fresh seafood, please enjoy it in the most natural way possible; and if you ever visit Panama, go check out this market and treat yourself to what our oceans have to offer.