A Central American Seafood Stew
This is one of those rustic dishes that first arose because of an abundance of product. Tapado was created due to an abundance of seafood, coconut, and plantains in the coastal towns of Central America. Like a lot of dishes originally created because of availability or affordability, it is now considered a delicacy. This would be considered a rather decadent stew in a lot of places. But in coastal towns in Guatemala and Honduras, where the ingredients are freshest and most abundant, it is a common and very affordable dish.
The local varieties of tapado are usually made with whole freshly caught seafood like crab, lobster, shrimp, and fish. The dish normally requires quite a bit of work to eat, like cracking open crabs and digging out fish bones. Something very foreign to a lot of Americans. Our recipe uses shelled shrimp and fish fillets to avoid this but it is definitely a “Americanized” version. Typically, the shrimp and fish would be served whole, with heads, shells, and skin on.
The Basics of Tapado
The base for the broth of tapado is coconut milk. Coconuts are abundant here in Central America, so the coconut milk is traditionally made from fresh coconuts, instead of using the canned or boxed varieties. This process is not necessarily very difficult, but does require some equipment that we didn’t have access to. The coconut milk broth adds a sweet, creaminess to the stew and helps thicken it. This is usually accompanied by chicken stock or bullion and some fresh herbs. Combined with the seafood and plantains, it creates a really remarkable broth.
The mixture of seafood and coconut milk is accompanied by fresh herbs and vegetables, like the ever abundant plantain. Tapado usually starts with onion, tomato and sweet peppers as a base. The addition of plantain sets this apart as tropical and adds sweetness and starchiness to the stew. It’s a rich, filling, comforting stew and we’re sure you’ll enjoy it!