Fish Choka has a special place in my heart. When we were little my grandmother Evelyn Ramotar made the most delicious fish choka. She made it with steamed Banga Mary (a fish from the drums family, very popular in Guyana). Sometimes instead of making fish choka she used all the same ingredients but rolled the seasoned fish into balls, added it to stews and called it fish balls. This woman was so creative in the kitchen, no matter how little she had, no one in her house was ever hungry.
To make a choka means to roast the main ingredient/s over an open flame. The most popular chokas in Guyana are Baigan Choka (my all time favorite), Coconut Choka and Tomato Choka. Although I am not roasting this fish over an open flame it is still referred to as a choka because the general idea of the choka is still intact with this dish.
Prepping the Fish
For this recipe I used tilapia. I know there is a lot of controversy about tilapia and how it is raised. I grew up eating tilapia in Guyana. It is a sweet “gutta” fish. Little boys fished for tilapia in near by ponds and trenches and brought them home for their mothers to fry. I bought this tilapia from WholeFoods and it is sustainably farmed. Click here if you want to learn more about WholeFoods’ Standards for Farm raised fish.
I seasoned the fish with a few pantry staples, let it marinate for at least 30 minutes, then pan roasted it. You may also roast the fish in the oven along with your tomatoes and garlic for an even greater flavor pay off but be careful not to overcook the fish.
Choosing the right aromatics
Chokas have a very distinct flavor for me because of how the aromatics are chonked (chonkayed) then added to the roasted vegetables. I wanted to have that same flavor profile with this fish. My must have aromatics are: green onions, garlic and white or purple onions. Optional aromatics are cilantro or coriander leaves and Italian parsley.
Bringing the Fish Choka Together
Once you’ve prepped all your ingredients, bringing this dish together is as simple as mixing everything together and serving.
How to serve the Fish Choka
Fish Choka pairs really well with:
- Roti. Try my easy roti recipe or gluten free roti if you are gluten sensitive like me
- Dhal and Rice. Make your dhal in the instant pot while your fish is steaming and your tomatoes are roasting up!
- Serve it along with other vegetable sides like pumpkin or bhagie.
Save it for Later!
The Printable Fish Choka Recipe:
- 1 lb of white fish filet like tilapia, red snapper or cod
- 1 lemon
- 3 roma tomatoes
- 1 small yellow onions thinly sliced
- 4 green onions thinly sliced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic peeled
- About 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
- 2 wiri wiri chili or similar finely chopped (can also be substituted for a pinch of cayenne pepper)
- About 1/2 cup of oil suitable for cooking
- 1/2 teaspoon of iodized sea salt or salt to taste
To Season the fish:
- 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon of iodized sea salt
Prep the fish:
- Squeeze lemon juice liberally over the fish filets and let rest for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly
- Next season fish with onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt
- Mix together well and allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes
Roast the tomatoes and garlic
- Preheat oven to 450 °F
- Add tomatoes and garlic cloves to a small sheet pan or skillet. Drizzle with about a tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then mix together well
- Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until tomatoes and garlic are soft and mushy
- Then remove from the oven and crush with a fork until the tomatoes and garlic are soft and mushy. You can also do this is a mortar and pestle
Two way to Roast the fish:
- 1. Oven Roast: Drizzle the seasoned fish with 2 tablespoons of oil and add it to a sheet pan. Roast the fish along with the tomatoes and garlic. This should take no more than 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the fish. Once the fish is translucent in color and flakes easily, remove from the oven, place in a large bowl and set aside
- 2. Pan roast: Add two tablespoons of oil to a skillet on medium heat and bring up to temperature. Then add the seasoned fish and immediately cover. Cook covered for 10 minutes or until the fish is opaque in color and can be easily flaked with a fork
- Remove from the pan and place into a mixing bowl and set aside
Chonkay (chonk) the aromatics:
- Add about 3 tablespoons of oil to a skillet on high heat and bring up to temperature
- Then add the sliced onions, followed by a sprinkle of salt and cook until the onions are translucent
- Next add the green onions and chilis and stir fry for about a minute
- Then pour the cooked onions, green onions, chilis and all the oil from the pan over the roasted fish, followed by the roasted tomatoes and garlic
- Finally add the chopped cilantro and mix together well
- Serve warm