Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saaaaaaalt Fish...

Carnival is in the air. There are so many local foods associated with the season, from potato pies to rotis (and we can’t forget the unofficial “official” food of T&T, a nice tasty pigeon peas pelau) but I don’t think that none can beat the perfect breakfast of Salt fish Bujol (sometimes spelled as Brulejol) and… well… anything!

Back in the day, salt fish (made by salting and preserving cod) was often referred to as a poor man’s food, but as anyone can now attest, it has now become “Mr.” Salt fish, meaning that the price has risen to give it 'status' among other high priced foods. Today you can find salted shark and pollock in abundance. However, as all Trinidadians know, it’s taken quite a few knocks because the very word is synonymous with the slang for a woman’s ahem … nether regions…

Still, this is one of those breakfasts that many pay through the nose to enjoy at a local food stand or café, where it’s served up in a hot roast or fried bake or sada roti and splashed with ketchup and peppersauce.  I thank God that my late Granny had a flair for making all kinds of things with salted fish, including cod puffs and salt fish stew, and her specialty, scrambled eggs and salt fish.

No one however, can take away my happy memories of my Granny and her long handled blue enamel potspoon, which I can still hear knocking around her Pyrex dish as she’d mix up the saltfish buljol before handing me a plate with a handful of Crix from the biscuit drum. Eaten with a nice fried bake and drunk with a warm cup of sweet tea or coffee is my favourite way to start a weekend morn, and it’s even better enjoyed when a couple slices of ripe zaboca (avocado) join the party.

Many people think that a good Saltfish Buljol is a complicated thing to make, but as you will soon realise, it’s as easy as the famous double entendre calypso by the Mighty Sparrow… sing it with me now… “Saaaaaaalt Fish… it sweeter than meat, when is time to eat, baby… all saltfish sweet!” 

First, you get your salt fish and place it in some water. Put it on a medium high flame and let it boil for 10 minutes – that will get most of the salt out of it.

Cut up a few blades of chive…

Then slice a medium onion, cut up two tomatoes and also a couple of pimento peppers. The pimentoes are optional; I just happen to love them in my buljol!

By the time you’re through doing that, your salt fish should be boiling.

Strain it off in your rice strainer or colander and let it cool a bit. Taste a piece of it to make sure that enough salt has come out, or your buljol will be ‘brinejol’.
(If it’s still too salty, boil again for about 5 minutes.)

Now you can do this part with your hands, but I need mine for the photos, hence the two forks. Just use them (or your fingers) to shred the salt fish nicely.

Add the onions and pimento and mix them in.

Next comes the chive…

Followed by the tomato.

Give it all a good stir; see how it’s starting to look like the finished product? But we’re not done yet!

Now for the “must have” magic ingredient… olive oil. I should note that I’ve tried making a salt fish buljol with other kinds of oil, but the taste never comes out the same.

(This next step can be pretty dangerous, so I must tell you that this is OPTIONAL. You don’t have to do this, but this is how I saw my Granny do it, so I’ve continued the tradition.)
Heat the olive oil in a potspoon over your stove’s flame until is starts to shimmer.

Next, pour it onto the salt fish, you’ll hear it give a nice sizzle… However, DO NOT use the same potspoon you used to heat the oil to stir, otherwise the fish will stick to it.

If you have it, add in a little minced habanero for a bit of heat, then stir it up and let it sit for a few minutes so the flavours can meld together… and there you have it! Your very own bowl of salt fish buljol!

Curious? Here’s the full recipe!

Salt fish Buljol.

A 250 g pack of salted fish (shark, cod or pollock)
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 bulbs chive, chopped
2 pimento peppers, chopped (optional)
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1 potspoonful (or 1½ tablespoons) olive oil (you have the option to warm it up)
A 1 inch piece of yellow habanero pepper, minced fine (optional)


Boil the salted fish for about 10 minutes and then drain in a colander or rice strainer. (Taste for saltiness. If still too salty, boil for another 5 minutes.)
Shred it with your fingers, then add in the onion, pimento, chives and tomatoes and stir.
Add in the olive oil (you can choose to heat it up on an open flame in a potspoon) and stir with a fresh spoon.
Add in the minced habanero (optional) and stir again. Let it sit for a few minutes for the flavours to meld together.
Serve on some warm sada roti, fried or roast bake or with some Crix.

And thus ends my salt fish buljol sojourn. Keep in mind that there are as many versions of buljol as there are lovers of the dish, and you will come across a few variations that have garlic, chadon beni, sweet peppers or even grated carrot. All are fine in their own right, because for some it’s a matter of preference. This recipe, however, is as easy as it gets. Have fun trying it and let me know how it comes out. Don’t forget to leave me a word or two, and as I always say, doh forget to mind de pot!  Take care!  :-)


  1. Looks delicious. Good ingredients, good nutritious meal! And so quick to make too!

    And -- um -- now I understand where the term "Cod Piece" came from -- referring to the garment accessory that holds the Gentleman's Decorations.

  2. Thanks so much Anna & Mich... I am so glad you're enjoying the blogs. Hope to bring more as time goes by, so keep checking, okay? Much love! :-D