Fish and Fungi (Virgin Islands) | Wine Enthusiast
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Fish and Fungi (Virgin Islands)

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.


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.”