How to buy fresh fish: The week before Easter is always a busy week for me. That’s because I always have to find the best fresh fish to make Escovitch Fried Fish for Good Friday. Since I never cook on that day, I have to do all my shopping and cooking ahead of time. Today I’ll be going shopping for fish. The fresher the fish the better; but that goes without saying.

Since Jamaica is surrounded by water it’s never difficult to find fresh fish like snapper, parrot fish or goat fish. However, even if you’re buying from a seaside fisherman, it’s still good to know how to pick the best fish. Here are some of my tips for knowing your fish is fresh:

1. Check the eyes. They should be shiny.

2. Pull back the gills to see if they’re red, or at least pink. That will indicate that the blood was recently flowing and the fish was caught not long before. If the gills are brown you’ll know it’s not fresh.

3. The smell test: All fish will smell like fish, but if it smells really fishy… you know, makes you turn up your nose, it’s probably not fresh at all; don’t buy it.

4. The touch test: Fish should be firm to the touch, not squishy.

When I buy fish at the market, I always ask the fishmonger to clean the fish and remove the fins and scales. Most will do it without asking, but make sure they do. You can also ask him to remove the head if you want, but I don’t have a problem with it so I never do.

When I get home I clean the fish again by scraping it, to remove any remaining scales, and rinsing it with lemon juice and water. I then use a tea towel or paper towel to pat the fish dry. Finally I season it with salt and pepper and place in the fridge overnight until I’m ready to get cooking!


I’ve been cooking Jamaican food for my family for more than 50 years! Now I'm teaching my daughter Angela and you how to cook my treasured family recipes! I'm happy to be of service and love hearing from you so don't forget to leave a comment below.



  • Reply
    June 12, 2012

    I tried this recipe and loved it! it was better than when I tried it at a Jamaican restaurant! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2012

    hi fay
    Do you gut the fish???

    • Reply Cook Like A Jamaican
      September 12, 2012

      Hi Richard,
      I have the fish cleaned and scaled at the market when I buy it. Then I wash it again with water and lemon or lime juice when I get home.
      Blessings, Fay

  • Reply
    February 2, 2015

    I’m thrilled that my Jamaica co-worker had told me about your website. I have lots of Jamaican friend and grew fond of Jamaican cuisine. I love everything Jamaican, even the men. I will try your oxtail recipe — can’t wait to go to the market and pick up all the ingredients. Will let you know how it turned out. I’m Chinese by the way.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2015

    I thought that allspice was a combination of various dried spices ground together.

    • Reply Fay & Angela
      Fay & Angela
      March 15, 2015

      Hi Gwen,
      Yes, that’s a common mistake. I usually call ground pimento Allspice and the dried pimento berries Pimento. But they are one and the same.

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