Saltfish, Plantains, and Eggs
Haitian saltfish, plantains, and eggs is the holy trinity of breakfast, in my opinion. Mori, bannann ak ze, as this dish is called in Haitian Kreyol, is salty, saucy, and mildly spicy. This version is influenced by my grandmother’s saltfish that she would make on the weekends or holidays where we’d opt-out of meat. She likes to include cashews for a nutty almost creamy sauce, a very typical ingredient for Northern Haitian stews. I prefer a lighter sauce.
Saltfish is a preserved boneless codfish fillet that has been salted and traditionally sun-dried until the flesh is tight and dehydrated. This method of preservation retains the nutrients of the fish and creates a deeper flavor and meatier texture– perfect for a stew. You can find saltfish at Caribbean or Asian markets.
Plantain- a popular starch in Haiti enjoyed sweet or savory. It is eaten fried, boiled or mashed. For this recipe, boiled semi-sweet plantain compliments the well-seasoned fish and buttery eggs. A semi-sweet plantain has a yellow skin with little to no black spots, black spots indicate ripeness. An unsweet or unripe plantain will have completely green skin. A sweet plantain will have a spotted or partially blackened skin, indicating a higher development of sugar.
Like many Haitian dishes with gravy, tomato and epis make up the base of this stew. The tomato paste adds a mild acidity and sweetness that balances the salty fish. Epis is a green seasoning of alliums, herbs, and peppers that serves as the base flavor of Haitian cooking. You’ll find it in soups, stews, rice, and even as a marinade for meat.
Growing up with a Haitian grandmother, there was no such thing as a recipe. She would tweak dishes depending on what she had on hand and to her taste. I encourage you to do the same. Use this dish as inspiration, follow your taste and intuition– that’s the Caribbean recipe.
Jikoni Test Kitchen Notes:
- Plan ahead for this dish as you’ll need a full day to soak the fish. Soaking will rehydrate and de-salt the codfish.
- Go-to neutral cooking oils: vegetable, grapeseed, avocado.
Haitian breakfast of salt-preserved cod simmered in a spicy tomato-based sauce served with plantain.
1 pound saltfish (preserved codfish/bacalao)
3 tablespoons neutral oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into ⅛ inch rings
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs thyme
⅓ cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons Haitian Epis
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 scotch bonnet or habanero
small handful parsley, leaves and stems roughly chopped, plus additional to garnish
small handful cilantro, leaves and stems roughly chopped
salt to taste
2 semi-sweet plantains (greenish-yellow in color), cut in half widthwise
4 hard-boiled eggs, to serve
- Rinse the saltfish and soak in a large bowl for 20 hours in cool water, changing the water every few hours to remove excess salt. When the fish feels tender and rehydrated, drain water and give it a final rinse. Taste the fish, it may still have a bit of salt but it should not be overwhelming.
- Shred the fish into bite-sized pieces using a fork or your hands, set aside.
- Cut the plantains in half then score the skin lengthwise. Add them to a medium saucepan filled with water. Boil on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove the skin before serving.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over med-high heat.
- Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add garlic, thyme, and tomato paste. Stir for 1 minute, you want the tomato paste to cook a bit to deepen the flavor.
- Stir in the epis and dry spices, stirring constantly to prevent spices from sticking and burning in the pan.
- Pour in 2 cups of water, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to create your sauce.
- Add scotch bonnet, shredded fish, fresh herbs, stir.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Taste for salt and add it if necessary. Serve with plantains and eggs.