Belize Cuisine – Tilapia Fried Fish

Tilapia whole friend fish dish with cole slaw, lime and French Fries as is typically served in Belize restaurants. Photo by Etan Tal.

Tilapia, also known as St. Peter’s fish, has become a favorite in the Belize diet over the past 15 years as large export aquaculture facilities began fish farming operations in Belize for the export market – mainly in North America and Canada. Now small scale Tilapia farming has spread throughout rural Belize making this delicious fish an easily accessible marine product on the food table of many Belizeans and popular in local restaurants.

Tilapia is common name for more than a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapia inhabit a variety of fresh water habitats including shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. Tilapia go by many names. The more well-known name “St. Peter’s fish” comes from the story in the Christian Bible about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a shekel coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish. But several tilapia species (Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus and others) are found in the Sea of Galilee, where the author of the Gospel of Matthew accounts the event took place.

Tilapia Fish Farming In Belize

Most of the interest in developing small scale freshwater aquaculture in Belize has been the farming of both the red and the grey tilapia according to public information released by the Belize Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Most of the fish farms that have been set up are located in the Belize, Cayo and Orange Walk districts.

A recent Belize Government Survey on Small Scale Fish Farming indicates by the end of 2016, there was a total of 95 farmers farming either the red or the grey tilapia in a total production area of 114 acres and 313,782 fish stocks associated with these production units with sizes ranging from 1.01 acres to 2.25 Acres. At least 25% of the stocks recorded for 2016 were fingerlings stocked during the last quarter of 2015.

The estimated production for small farmers output in 2016 was 319,900 pounds of whole fish, The production from small scale fish farming is consumed by the local market making it widely available to Belizeans and tourists alike. Commercial Tilapia growers in Belize for which figures are not readily available feed their stock with soy-based protein concentrate making for a nutritious and healthy product.

Small farmers in rural Belize use soy-based protein as well but only as a supplement as needed, allowing the fish to feed on floating aquatic plants and other naturally occurring vegetable nutrients making for an even healthier quality marine product.

Belize Style Tilapia Fried Fish Recipe

Belizeans and visitors that taste Tilapia for the first time say it tastes like flounder or grouper – both high quality fish is any chef’s menu. Here is a simple recipe for Tilapia Pan or Deep Fried Fish Belize Style.

You will need a couple of 6 to 8 ounce whole Tilapia fish for each person. You can substitute a couple of 4 to 6 ounce Tilapia fish fillets if you prefer. Just follow the below simple recipe for deep fried tilapia.

Tilapia Fried Fish Is Delicious With Belize Rice and Beans