3 Easy Seafood Van Life Recipes

3 Easy Seafood Van Life Recipes

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These three simple and delicious seafood van life recipes are great for when you are camping near the sea

With a few exceptions, Ecuador wasn’t our number one place to eat out in South America. The fact that they use the US dollar seems to make everything just a little bit more expensive. A three-course menu del dia that costs $1.50 -$2 USD in Peru starts around $2.50 – $3.50 in Ecuador. Nor did we find the diversity of delicious regional specialties on offer in Colombia or the cheap and tasty street food being served up on every corner in Bolivia.

What Ecuador did have in plentiful supply, at least by the coast, was fresh seafood. Seafood that comes straight off the tiny fishing boats lining the beaches and bays up and down Ecuador’s stretch of pacific. Most towns have either a fish monger or central market where you can choose from a vast array, or approach a fisherman coming ashore in the mornings to see what they have dragged up.

Fresh seafood market on the beaches of Puerto Lopez where the local fishermen bring in the daily catch.
A fresh seafood market on the beach in Ecuador. The fishing boats can be seen bobbing in the sea.

In the van, with only a little 12 volt cool box to keep food cold we don’t make a habit of carrying meat, poultry or fish with us, so if we eat meat, we eat it out.

It was a nice change to be able to cook seafood for ourselves and we made the most of the opportunity. These are three of our favourite seafood van life recipes. We love them because they are quick, simple (can be prepared with a single burner) and because they let the flavour of truly fresh seafood speak for itself.

We are always cooking for two so these recipes all make two (hearty) serves.

Pescado Frito

Fried whole fish with potatoes, a tomato cucumber salad and a beer
A typical South American dish, pescado frito is an easy seafood van life recipe

This delicious, salty, greasy whole fried fish is best enjoyed on a beach, eaten with your hands and washed down with an ice cold Pilsner.

Pescado Frito is super easy to make yourself and with fish off the boat costing no more than $0.50c a serve it’s much more economical. Serve up simply with rice and a salad of tomato, red onion, lime juice and salt.

Pick a medium-sized white-fleshed fish about 500g. The smaller it is the easier it will be to cook but the larger one will be less finicky to eat without thousands of bones.

Ask for the fish gutted and scaled, the fish monger or fisherman will have it done in a flash ready to be cooked.

Now we are ready to go…

Ingredients

Fish

Salad

  • 2 whole fish – gutted and scaled
  • 1 cup of flour
  • Teaspoon of salt
  • Teaspoon of pepper
  • Cooking oil

To serve

  • White rice
  • Lime wedge
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Medium red onion
  • One small lime
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Mix the flour together with salt and pepper in a dish large enough to fit your whole fish.
  2. Take a sharp knife and score three or four times along both fillets. Pat down the whole fish with paper towel to dry.
  3. Place the fish in the dish to coat with flour mixture.
  4. In a pan large enough to fit your 2 whole fish, heat 1 – 2 cm of oil until it sizzles when you drop in some flour.
  5. Carefully add the fish and cook on one side until golden brown, turn and continue to fry the other side until the whole fish is cooked.
  6. The salad is just a matter of dicing up the tomato, slicing the onion, seasoning with salt and dressing with fresh lime.
  7. Serve the freshly fried fish with a helping of steamed rice and salad for the perfect lunch by the ocean.

Salt-n-Pepper Calamari

Quick and tasty, this calamari makes for a great pre-dinner snack or awesome addition to a salad.

Crispy fried calamari goes great with a squeeze of lime and cold beer.

Ingredients

  • 500g of fresh squid
  • 1 cup of flour
  • Teaspoon of salt
  • Teaspoon of pepper
  • Teaspoon of chili flakes
  • Cooking oil
  • Lime wedges to serve

Method

Preparing the calamari

  1. Pull the tentacles and eyes from the hood
  2. Cut the tentacles from the eyes. Discard the eyes and any other muck that comes with it.
  3. Remove and discard the beak from the centre of the tentacles.
  4. Cut tentacles into bite size pieces and tentacles aside.
  5. Pull the fins from the outside of the hood and the cartilage and any other bits and pieces from inside.
  6. Remove the purple membrane from the outside of the squid.
  7. Make one cut along the length of the hood to create one flat piece of calamari, score the calamari and cut into squares about 4cm x 4cm
  8. Rinse calamari pieces and tentacles in fresh sea water.
  9. Pat calamari dry with paper towel.

Cooking the calamari

  1. Mix the flour together with the salt, pepper and chili flakes in a large dish.
  2. Dredge the calamari pieces into the flour mixture and toss to coat
  3. In a large pan heat 1 – 2 cm of oil until it sizzles when you drop in some flour.
  4. Carefully add the calamari in 2 – 3 separate batches and cook until golden.
  5. Transfer calamari from pan to a plate with paper towel and rest for a minute before transferring to a serving bowl.
  6. Serve hot with a piece of lime and a cold beer.

Ginger Chili Prawns

Prawns (or shrimp) displayed in buckets on the beaches of Puerto Lopez.
Prawns / Shrimp fresh of the boat in Ecuador make for a great seafood van life recipe

Prawns (or shrimp) are a summer staple in Australia. Unfortunately, in Australia, a kilogram of large fresh prawns (whole and uncooked) can run between $20 and $40. So when we stumbled on a fisherman selling prawns for $3USD a kilo it was an easy decision.

Taking our precious cargo back to our quiet beachside camp in Pueblo Nuevo we set about shelling prawn for a summer afternoon bbq.

This is a recipe for simple grilled or barbecued prawns using fresh herbs and

Ingredients

  • 1kg whole fresh prawns
  • A knob of ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium chili
  • Tablespoon of soy sauce
  • A handful of coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 lime

Method

  1. Prepare the prawns by removing heads, shells and legs.
  2. Finely chop, ginger, garlic, and chili.
  3. Combine prawns, ginger, garlic, chili and soy sauce and coat prawns.
  4. Allow to marinate in the fridge for 1 – 12 hours.
  5. Chop up a handful of coriander and cut a lime in half
  6. Heat up a a pan with a little cooking oil.
  7. Cook prawns on one side for about 3 minutes before turning.
  8. Squeeze lime over prawns as they continue to cook.
  9. Add handful of coriander to the pan.
  10. After another 3 minutes, remove prawns from heat and serve!
Best served on an empty beach at sunset…

These simple seafood van life recipes are a great way to take advantage of fresh fish and seafood when you are at the coast.

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Want to hear more of our seafood recipes? How about fish tacos? Scallop pasta? Grilled fish with chickpea salad? Or do you have some go-to seafood van life recipes of your own? Let us know in the comments below!

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