Made with the classic achiote paste – a blend of cumin, pepper, cloves and the orange seeds of the annatto tree – this fish dish is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the pibil underground oven. The charm of unwrapping banana leaves to reveal a beautiful and delicious dish makes pescado en tikin-xic a particularly exciting meal for large groups and one that we always like to make for guests of Petac.
4lbs. high quality fish filets, white meat – we often use snapper
Walnut sized amount of achiote paste
½ lb. of white onion sliced in rings
Salt and pepper
Juice of 3 limes and 5 sour oranges
One head of garlic roasted over flame
1. Dissolve the achiote paste in the juice of the sour oranges and limes. If the filets are from one large fish, cut into one person size portions and marinate the fish in the achiote mixture for fifteen minutes.
2. Banana leaves must be ready to use – for each portion you will need a section of banana leaf approximately 12-inches square. Spread the banana leaf out and place the marinated fish in the center.
3. Place a slice of tomato and a slice of onion on top of the fish, then fold the banana leaf so that it is a compact little package.
4. Place into a large pyrex dish.
5. When everything is laid in the dish pour the remaining marinade into the dish along with the roasted garlic and a little salt and pepper.
6. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake in medium hot oven for 45-minutes.
To serve, carefully unwrap the fish, tear a piece of the banana leaf and put on the plate, then arrange the fish on top of the section of leaf. Serve with rice and refried beans and onion salsa.
We cook our fish in the ground as a “pibil” over the hot rocks completely covered over with earth. Unless you have a pit in the ground that you can do the same, Pyrex will be a good substitute.