How to cure codfish at home

IMG_1595 (2).jpg
Home-Cured Salted Codfish

Salted codfish or bacalao is essential to Jamaican dishes like Ackee and Saltfish and Saltfish Fritters. It goes without saying that bacalao for home cooking is difficult to come by in Bangkok. So I found the directions for curing codfish on The Spruce Eats. I couldn’t find sea salt in large quantities for curing. I did find it eventually, but only after I had bought 5 kg of iodized table salt (43 baht at Makro). I found frozen codfish fillets, also at Makro, for 160 baht. So for 200 baht (about US$6.00) I can make my own bacalao as compared to buying it for US$12.00 per pound. I also read online that curing fish with iodized table salt might brown the fish and give it a bitter taste. But I decided to try it anyway with just 2 fillets. To my surprise, they came out just fine. Here’s how I did it:

2 frozen codfish fillets, thawed
Sea salt (I used iodized table salt but a medium grain sea salt or kosher salt is recommended)

Special equipment
9×13 inch glass dish (can use stainless steel. Do not use plastic)
Wire rack
Rimmed baking tray

Rinse and thoroughly pat dry the thawed fillets. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of salt in the bottom of the dish. Place the fish fillets in a single layer on top of the salt, making sure they are not touching. Cover completely with another layer of salt.

Cook’s Note: The Spruce Eats allows that a second layer of fish can be added on top of the first layer. Make sure the second layer is completely covered in salt.

Cover the dish loosely with a clean kitchen towel to absorb odors, and place the whole thing in the refrigerator for 48 hours. The fillets will give off a fishy smell but will not smell spoiled. After 48 hours, the fillets were dry, even flatter from the loss of moisture, had lost about 25% of their length and about 10-15% of their width. Discard the salt.

Rinse the fillets and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Wrap each fillet individually in cheesecloth and set them in a single layer on the wire rack set on top of the baking tray or dish. Return to the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks to dry and stiffen up.

After 1 week, the fillets became dry and stiff. There was no moisture or smell because the salt had drawn away all the water from the fillets. The cheesecloth remained dry the whole week. The fillets turned white and stiff.

Wrap each fillet in waxed paper and then in foil. Label and date. Store in the refrigerator 3 months or up to 1 year in the freezer.

Before cooking you need to remove the excess salt. Soak the fillets in water for 24 hours, changing the water at least twice. My mother always boiled a piece of salted codfish for 3-5 minutes to remove the salt.

To test the result, I then cooked one of the fillets with tomatoes, onion, and ackee. The saltfish was too thin, I think, and lacked the “meatiness” necessary for the dish. It wasn’t bitter at all. The next time I cure fish, I will use a thicker fillet, and experiment with a different whitefish such as pollock, haddock, or flounder.


Portuguese fish stew


It’s after the holidays yet we’re still eating out, celebrating the new year with friends and family who have come to visit. Not so good for one’s waistline! I found this recipe in my collection from the Food Network and adapted it here. It turned out to be lightly spiced and filling without being heavy, perfect for a light dinner after a heavy lunch.

Portuguese Fish Stew (adapted from Food Network)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons pimenton dulce (Spanish paprika) or smoked paprika
1 small onion thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2-1 cup water
2 pounds white fish, cut into 1 inch chunks
Salt and pepper
Slices of multigrain bread, lightly toasted

Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat. Add bay leaves and paprika, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until the peppers are slightly softened.

Add 1/2 cup water and reduce heat to medium-low. If you think the stew needs more water, add up to a 1/2 cup more. In a large bowl, season the fish chunks with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Nestle the fish chunks on top of the tomato-pepper mixture. Cover and simmer 5-7 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle the top with the remaining cilantro. Serve each bowl with a slice of bread.

fish tacos with corn-guava-avocado salsa

DSC03876 We woke up this morning to discover one of the neighbors looking in through the window. It’s been pretty quiet in the condo complex because of the switch over in the school year at the university from June to March to August to June. This means that this year’s summer holiday is 5 months long. Not many uni students are back yet of course, and at the high school, we are just beginning our two month summer break. The students seemed quite bewildered, some of them, at suddenly having nothing to do after exams last Tuesday were over. Since some of their friends came back for ROTC on Wednesday afternoon, they decided to show solidarity and showed up at school for old times’ sake. I suppose this curious visitor was doing the same thing, wondering where everybody had gone. What should he do now that his time is his own?

DSC03881With grades in, I’ve been cooking with the electric pan. The lid can open out and double the cooking surface, so I have both a skillet and a griddle. Cooking on the balcony is somewhat challenging because there is no electrical outlet so I have to run an extra long extension cord outside. Plus, there is just a little two-foot square space right next to the sink. If I angle the pan just so I can open it out. Last night for supper I made grilled chicken thighs, but I had made them in Bangkok. We ate them with a mango-avocado salsa. If it seems that we are eating more avocado it is because we found them for Baht 20 apiece at the Suan Luang market yesterday.  We bought 6 and the vendor added 1 more for goodwill. I hope she will be there next weekend. I love avocado.


DSC03885Because I love to eat, I really should exercise more. To respect one’s body is to exercise, and then to eat good food that is fresh and homemade. Today, we rode our bikes around Phuttamonthon, the Buddhist park, and then we each swam 500 meters in the Sirimongkol Pool. We decided to eat in rather than eat out. For lunch today I prepared lightly sauteed pangasius fillets which we ate wrapped inside warm flour tortillas topped with corn-guava-avocado salsa and Greek-style yogurt.  It’s so good to be cooking again!



Fish Tacos with Corn-Guava-Avocado Salsa

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes (in a double electric pan heated to 180˚C)

2 white fish fillets (e.g. tilapia)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon rice bran oil
4 flour tortillas

Pat dry the fillets then sprinkle one side with salt and pepper. Lightly sauté in a little oil until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas. Keep warm until ready to serve. Cut the fillets into large chunks just before eating.

Corn-Guava-Avocado Salsa
1 ear of fresh corn, niblets removed from the cob
1 small Thai guava, peeled, seeded, and chopped (can substitute jicama or mun kaew)
1 medium avocado, peeled, pit removed, and chopped
8 grape tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 of a large onion, thinly sliced
the juice of 3 small limes
salt to taste
1 tablespoon minced scallion for garnish
1-2 chopped fresh Thai chilies, optional

Lightly cook the corn in the microwave for 4 minutes, drain the niblets and cool them. In a medium bowl, put the niblets, the guava, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro and onion. Squeeze the lime juice all over. Add salt to taste. Garnish with scallion and chilies, if using, and spoon over fish chunks on top of a warm tortilla. Put a generous dollop of yogurt on top and eat–leave out that steaming side-dish of guilt and enjoy. It’s low in carbs and calories.

cajun seasoned whitefish with red beans and rice

Cajun seasoned whitefish, curried root vegetables, red beans and rice
Whitefish with cajun seasoning, curried root vegetables, red beans and rice
Whitefish with cajun seasoning, curried root vegetables, red beans and rice

Many cultures of the Caribbean have their own version of  what we call rice and peas in Jamaica. It is basically rice and kidney beans cooked in coconut milk  and salted pig’s tail. This version called red beans and rice,  is from the Southern US, most likely Louisiana, via Emeril Lagasse. Instead of cooking the rice with the kidney beans, meat,  and other seasonings, the rice is cooked separately. Red beans and rice is quite easy to make but time-consuming, taking up to 2 hours to make. I halved the recipe and made some adaptations

Red Beans and Rice

Prep time: 5 hours 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Servings: 4

1cup dried red beans, rinsed and picked over
1  tablespoon rice bran oil (bacon grease in the original recipe)
2 1/4 cups chopped ham, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/3 cup chopped Chinese celery (celery in the original recipe)
1/3 cup chopped spur chilies (green bell peppers in the original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
1  large bay leave
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 teaspoons dried thyme  (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/2 cup smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
5 cups chicken stock, or water (I used 3 chicken bouillon cubes)
2 cups cooked long grain brown rice (long grain white rice in the original)
1/4 cup green onions, sliced on the bias,  optional

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and
set aside. Meanwhile make the rice in a rice cooker and leave it on the keep warm feature until ready to serve.

Cook’s Note: I soaked the beans for 5 hours on the counter top. Then I cooked them in the pressure cooker for 8 minutes. Drain the beans and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the ham and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the
onions, celery and peppers to the pot. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.

Add the bay leaf, cilantro, thyme, sausage, and the remainder of the ham, then cook, stirring, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the liquid starts to thicken, about 2 hours. (If  the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time.)

Cook’s Note: I checked the beans every 30 minutes to make sure they weren’t drying out. At first I had the heat turned to medium low, but that was too low to cook and thicken the gravy. The liquid in the pot should bubble gently, so adjust the heat accordingly. In the last half hour of cooking, prep the fish and fry it. See instructions below.

I served the red beans and rice with whitefish seasoned with Cajun seasoning. Pat two whitefish fillets dry with paper towels, then liberally sprinkle each side with Cajun seasoning. Heat  1 tablespoon oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the fillets. Cook on one side 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and cook on the second side 3-4 more minutes. You’ll know the fillets are done when the meat flakes easily when gently prodded with a fork. Before serving, sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper, if desired.

Remove the pot of beans from the heat and with the back of a wooden spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot.

Cook’s Note: Alternatively, remove about a cupful of beans and ham and simply mash the beans in a bowl  with a fork then return the smashed beans and ham to the pot.

Continue to cook until the beans are fork tender but look firm, and the liquid in the pot has turned reddish brown and thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.

pan-fried fish fillets with mediterranean tomato sauce

pan fried fish fillets with mediterranean tomato sauce

I adapted this recipe from The delicious thing about it is the fresh herb flavor with the tomatoes. Use whatever you have on hand–the freshest is best.

Pan-Fried Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 9 minutes
Serves 2

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato (about 2 large tomatoes)
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (flat-leaf parsley in original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh scallions (or chives)
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or tarragon)
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (or thyme)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds tilapia fillets (approximately 2 large white fish fillets will do)
Cooking spray

1. In a medium skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the olive oil. When it bubbles, add the tomatoes and cook, 7 minutes, until softened. Add the capers, mustard and garlic; cook for an additional 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add cilantro, scallions, oregano and rosemary. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Cover to keep warm.

2. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add canola oil and heat over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish lightly with salt and black pepper on both sides. Add fish to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Turn the fish over; cook 3 minutes or until the fish turns white and flakes easily with a fork. Serve fish with the reserved warm sauce.

pan-fried fish fillets with mediterranean tomato sauce

I’ve been cooking a lot with tomatoes lately!  Tomatoes are so versatile raw or cooked, so naturally, I had to try this new fish recipe. According to, this recipe, if made with 6 ounce yellowtail snapper fillets with the skin on, amounts to 282 calories per serving. I used tilapia because it was available (and cheaper) but I think any white fish will do. The sauce has a nice light taste; not overpoweringly tomato-y. In fact,  all the flavors of the herbs come through, so be sure to use fresh as directed in the recipe.

Pan-Fried Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce (adapted from

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (flat-leaf parsley in original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds tilapia fillets (approximately 2 large fillets)

1. In a medium skillet heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add tomato to the pan and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, and tarragon. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste. Cover the skillet to keep warm.

2. In a large nonstick skillet heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper per side. Add fish to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Turn the fish over; cook 3 minutes or until the fish turns white and flakes easily with a fork. Serve fish with the warmed sauce.

baked tilapia with cilantro, ginger, scallion, and thai chile

This has been a trying week. I am trying out this new “diet” that said eating dessert for breakfast helps you lose weight. Of course, I had to try it. Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? After suffering an upset tummy from eating a chocolate frosted brownie too early in the morning, I found I wasn’t hungry until the end of the day, when my tummy began growling ferociously, FEED ME. So for dinner, I tried this new recipe called “Asian Inspired Tilapia,” which was such a curiously uninspiring name for a fish dish that has so many flavorful ingredients commonly found in the well-stocked Chinese kitchen. Except for the jalapeño. The jalapeño is for the timid soul. But if you are adventurous, I do recommend the Thai chile pepper instead. It made a huge difference in making this sauce piquant. So I re-christen this recipe–

Baked Tilapia with Cilantro, Scallion, Ginger, and Thai Chile

2 tilapia fillets – about 1 pound
1 Thai chile pepper (jalapeño in the original recipe)
3 scallions or green onions
2 inches peeled sliced ginger
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime (I used half a lemon)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine (I used rice cooking wine)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Sweet Red Pepper, chopped for garnish (Any pepper will do just so long as it’s colorful)
Scallions, chopped for garnish
Extra cilantro, to garnish
1 package/bag Mixed Baby Salad Greens

Heat the oven to 475F. Pat the fish dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in a glass baking dish.

Cook’s note: It doesn’t need salt and pepper, so I left it out. The “dressing” or sauce is salty, sour, and spicy enough.

Add jalapeno pepper, green onion, chopped ginger, and cilantro into small food processor and pulse until combined. Add the mixture to a small bowl with the fresh lime juice or lemon juice, soy sauce, wine, and sesame oil. Mix until blended.

Pour the sauce over the fish, pressing the solid ingredients down into the fish a bit. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is cooked through.

Divide the salad greens between two plates. Remove the tilapia with a spatula and place half on top of the greens on each plate. Drizzle the fish with the marinade left in the pan. Garnish with chopped red pepper, cilantro and green onion.

Serve with warm, crusty bread (or steamed white rice, if you are a traditionalist). I served this fish with roasted vegetables.

five-spice tilapia

This really was quick and easy! I blanched the broccoli and sugar snap peas for 2 minutes each. Then rinsed and drained them to set the color. I seasoned stir-fried the broccoli in a little oil and seasoned it with sea salt. Then I stir-fried the peppers in oil with a little garlic–two cloves to be exact–then added the sugar snap peas to heat through. Afterwards, I sprinkled the peas and peppers with Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. It’s becoming my favorite! The fish dish has just 3 main ingredients: soy sauce, brown sugar, and five-spice powder. Five spice powder is available from Asian markets. It contains star anise, Sichuan pepper, cinnamon, fennel seed, and cloves all ground up together in a delectable powder.

Five Spice Tilapia (from Eating Well)

Makes 4 servings | Active Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 15 minutes Ingredients

1 pound tilapia fillets (about 4 fillets)
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (this is so hard to be precise; just sprinkle it on both sides of the fish!)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally

1. Pat the fish fillets dry. Sprinkle both sides of each fillet with five-spice powder and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce and the sugar. Stir and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tilapia and cook until the outer edges of the fillets turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and flip the fillets. Stir the soy sauce mixture and pour it into the pan. Bring the sauce to a oil and cook until the fish is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with scallion. Serve at once.

Nutrition Per serving : 180 Calories; 6 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 57 mg Cholesterol; 9 g Carbohydrates; 24 g Protein; 0 g Fiber

Anne Marie’s broiled fish topped with panko breadcrumbs

I wish I could invent recipes like my cousin Anne Marie. She created this crunchy flavorful fish fillet that takes less than 15 minutes to prep and broil. So I am adding this to a new category I call Quick and Easy. Anne Marie didn’t have any measurements and it really is so simple you don’t need any:

Use any white fish filet.  Rinse, pat dry and put skin side down in your broiling pan.   Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and smear mayonnaise lightly over the top.  Season with seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic, thyme, dill & crushed red peppers.  Top with the panko bread crumbs, pressing them lightly into the fish and dusting with paprika   Place in broiler for approximately 4 minutes on each side.

I used a Cajun seasoning in place of the seasoned salt on two basa fish fillets and omitted the paprika. I left the fillets in the broiler for only 4 minutes. It was crispy on the outside and flaky, moist, and tender on the inside. It didn’t need any additional salt.

grilled fish tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos (from: Joylicious at The Daily Meal)

It must be getting warmer for I am thinking of summertime grilling. However, I made this grilled fish taco dish in under one hour using my little George Foreman grill in a New York apartment. I used basa fillets though any white fish fillets will do. Joylicious recommends tilapia. The fish is accompanied with a  jicama slaw.  In Thailand the jicama is called man kaew, literally a “glass potato.” It is a  turnip shaped vegetable, crunchy, with a  lightly sweet flavor that’s refreshing. However, I couldn’t find jicama so I used a green apple instead. The second accompaniment is a yogurt remoulade. Now a rémoulade is a condiment usually made with aioli or mayonnaise, and often accompanies fish. This version is made with plain Greek style yogurt which is thicker, like a sour cream, and has less calories, I am sure.


For the green apple-corn slaw:

  • 1 fresh lime, squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/2 cups  Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced small (jicama in the original recipe)
  • 3/4 cup red, orange,and green bell pepper, diced small
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced small
  • ¼ cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • ¼ cup green onion, diced small
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the yogurt rémoulade sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free Greek style yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon  grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
  • ½ lime squeezed
  • Salt, to taste

For the fish:

  • 1 1/2 pounds basa fillets (or any white fish. It was tilapia in the original)
  • 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 pack corn tortillas (I used yellow corn)
  • 1 cup green cabbage mix, thinly sliced, for garnish (purple and green cabbage mix in the original)
  • 1 avocado, for garnish (recommended!)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges, for garnish


Heat the grill, making sure it’s hot about 300-400 degrees.

Make the green apple-corn slaw. While you’re waiting for grill to heat up, start prepping the slaw. In a large bowl whisk together lime juice, sesame seeds and honey together. Then toss mixture with green apple, bell peppers, onion, corn, and green onion.  Use salt and pepper to adjust your desired taste (adding only ½ teaspoon at a time) – adding more honey and lime if needed to balance out the sweetness and tartness.

Make the remoulade sauce. In a medium bowl mix the yogurt, seasoning, mustard, Sriracha saucee, and lime juice together. Salt to desired taste.

Grill the fish fillets. Drizzle fish fillets with oil and evenly sprinkle each side with Cajun seasoning, adding more if needed. I grilled the fillets in the George Foreman, which doesn’t need any oil. It only took 4 minutes to grill. You can check for doneness when the fillet is white all the way through and the juices from the fish run clear. Set aside when done.

Serve. I heated up each corn tortilla in a skillet according to the package directions. Do keep tortillas warm by wrapping them in a towel until ready to serve. To serve,  start with a warm tortilla,  layering it with the cabbage mix, then pile a generous heaping of fillet topped with the green-apple corn slaw, avocado, and a generous dollop of rémoulade sauce. Finish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Related articles