Fish choka is a delicious mash up of tender, seasoned white fish, roasted tomatoes, and garlic. It’s a wholesome, fresh, flavorful, pescatarian meal that I never get tired of.
Guyanese Fish Choka
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.
Why You’ll Love This Fish Choka Recipe
- Easy to Make: This dish comes together in less than 1 hour with simple ingredients.
- Customizable: I love how easy it is to customize the fresh ingredients added to this recipe.
- Nutritious: This low-carb, low-calorie meal is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Ingredients for Fish Choka
This recipe is perfect for cleaning out the fridge. Use up leftover produce.
- Guyanese Fish Choka
- Why You’ll Love This Fish Choka Recipe
- Ingredients for Fish Choka
- How to Make Fish Choka
- How to serve the Fish Choka
- Tips for the Best Fish Choka
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Fish Choka
- White fish filet: Use tilapia, red snapper, or cod.
- Lemon: Using lemon with fish enhances the dish by imparting a bright acidity that complements the natural flavors of the fish, adding a refreshing and balanced taste.
- Roma tomatoes: These have a mild sweetness.
- Aromatics: I use yellow onions, green onions, and cloves of garlic.
- Fresh herbs: Use chopped cilantro/coriander leaves.
- Wiri wiri peppers: This adds a kick of heat. It can also be substituted for a pinch of cayenne pepper.
- Oil: Use any oil suitable for cooking like vegetable oil.
- Iodized sea salt or salt: Add to taste.
To Season the fish:
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
- Iodized sea salt
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Fish Choka
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 nearby ponds and trenches and brought them home for their mothers to fry. I bought this tilapia from Whole Foods and it is sustainably farmed.
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.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fire for up to 3 days. Reheat it gently over low heat on the stovetop or microwave until warmed through.
Tips for the Best Fish Choka
- For more flavor, marinate the fish for about 30 minutes. This tenderizes the fish and imparts deeper flavor.
- The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. The internal temperature should reach 145°F (63°C).
- Fish cooks quickly. Keep a close eye on it to prevent overcooking.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Cleanse and marinate fish before roasting or pan searing. Squeeze lemon juice liberally over the fish filets and let rest for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Then season the fish and allow it to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Either method will work for this fish choka recipe so it comes down to preference. Roasting offers even cooking and a golden crust, while pan-searing provides a quicker method for a beautifully seared exterior.
- Small sheet pan
- Large Skillet
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
The information listed in the recipe card is an estimate provided by an online nutrition tool. The tool evaluates ingredient names and amounts then makes calculations based on the number of servings listed for the recipe. It is provided as a general guideline and not as a precise calculation. For precise nutrition information please feel free to add the ingredients to your preferred nutrition calculator or consult a doctor or licensed nutritionist.