Fish and Fungi (Virgin Islands)

Photo by Con Poulos

Fish and fungi (pronounced foon-ji), the Caribbean version of polenta, is often viewed as the unofficial dish of both the British and U.S. ­Virgin Islands, as well as nearby Antigua and Anguilla. It dates back to the days of Danish rule, when cornmeal and salt herring were the foundation of slaves’ rations.

Caribbean Flavors
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper (or substitute other fresh hot peppers), minced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup canned crushed or puréed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup thickly sliced okra (fresh or frozen), cooked
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 pounds boneless red snapper fillets

Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, celery, garlic, thyme and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook until tender and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar, tomatoes, tomato paste and ¼ cup water. Reduce heat to low, and cook 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. Reserve sauce.

To make fungi, bring 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to boil. Whisking constantly, gradually add cornmeal in thin stream. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring frequently, until it holds its shape on a spoon but the cornmeal is tender, at least 15 minutes. Add more water if it becomes thick but the cornmeal is still tough. Add butter and okra. Add salt to taste.

In a wide saucepan, bring 8 cups water to boil. Add lime juice, and reduce heat to low. Add fish. Simmer 10 minutes, or until it flakes easily with fork. Drain well.

To serve, put 2 scoops fungi and a fish fillet on each plate. Spoon sauce over and around fish. Serves 4.

Pair It

Louis Jadot 2012 Puligny-Montrachet. “This Chardonnay is delicate, firm, and has great depth,” says George Williams, wine director at Antigua’s Curtain Bluff resort, which has perhaps the best wine list in the Caribbean. “Concentrated fresh-fruit and vanilla aromas carry onto the palate, with a very long finish. An excellent pairing with fungi and fish.”

Published on September 26, 2016
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.


The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories