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Tapado de Pescado y Camarones: Honduran Style Fish and Shrimp Coconut Soup

Photo Courtesy of Suellen Pineda

If you ask for ‘Tapado’ in Honduras, you will most likely get two options; ‘Tapado Olanchano’ and ‘Tapado Costeño (North Coast Style)’. The first one originated in the region of Olancho, eastern part of Honduras. They both have similar ingredients but the method of preparation are quite different. Tapado Olanchano is made by cooking the meats―including traditional chorizo― until they are tender and then alternating layers of plantain leaves, meats and vegetables. It is a very laborious task, but so worthy!

Tapado Costeño on the other hand, doesn’t use plantain leaves or chorizo. It is one of the so many dishes representative of the Black-Indigenous Honduran community known as ‘Garífunas’ but it’s widely prepared throughout the country.

This rich soup uses a variety of seafood, more specifically Conch. This is definitely one of my favorite soups ever! The sweetness and creaminess of the coconut milk paired with the delicate flavor and texture of conch plus the richness of the tuberculous veggies like green plantains and yucca or cassava make this soup a favorite once you try it.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any conch in the market, so instead I used tilapia and shrimp. It’s still a succulent soup that just reminds me of childhood memories at the beach where Garífunas usually prepare this soup and sell it to tourists.

Ingredients & Method (Yields: at least 6 servings)

  • 1 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 32 fl. Oz seafood stock
  • 32 fl. Oz water
  • 2 13.5 fl. Oz. cans low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • 3-4 Culantro leaves (AKA Recaito or Recao in Latino groceries)
  • A small bunch of fresh cilantro can also be used1 Tbsp Annatto seed paste (Achiote)
  • 2 green bananas, peeled and cut into pieces (1- 1 ½ “each)
  • 1 very ripe, yellow plantain, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 ½ lb yucca (Cassava) root, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into big pieces
  • 4 – 6 Tilapia fillets
  • 1 lb raw shrimps, cleaned
  • Enough flour to coat fish
  • Salt and Pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil and soften onion and green peppers for approx. 4 minutes
Add garlic and sauté until fragrant
Add seafood stock, water and coconut milk (DO NOT COVER THE POT)
Season with all herbs and spices, salt and pepper, and let cook under medium heat for about 20 minutes
Dissolve annatto paste with some of the cooking liquid to make it more fluid and add to soup
Add all root vegetables
While vegetables are cooking, season shrimps and fish (DO NOT OVERCOOK THE FISH)
Coat fish with flour and sear on a skillet
When all veggies are tender, add cooked fish to soup and cook for about 5 minutes
Add Shrimp and remove from heat (the heat in the soup will cook shrimp)
Serve immediately with lemon wedges and hot sauce

Note: A variety of seafood can be used. Also, add more liquid (stock or water) if broth becomes too thick due to the starch in vegetables. Do not add tomatoes as the acidity in the tomatoes and hot temperature may curdle the coconut milk.

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