Citrusy Black Cod Roasted in Banana Leaves (Tikin Xic)

Something beautiful happens with protein is smeared with citrusy achiote paste, wrapped in banana leaves, and roasted. The famous Mexican pork dish cochinita pibil is prepared this way, and in the coastal states of Quintana Roo and Yucatán, fish gets the same treatment for a flavorful entrée. Achiote, also called annatto, are yellow-orange seeds that lend sweet, peppery citrus notes to dishes. Along with orange and lime, the bright flavors provide contrast to the tea-like aroma from the banana leaves, which are available at Asian supermarkets.

Citrusy Black Cod Roasted in Banana Leaves
(Tikin Xic)Something beautiful happens when protein is smeared with citrusy achiote paste, wrapped in banana leaves, and roasted. Cochinita pibil is famously prepared this way, and throughout Quintana Roo and Yucatán, fish gets the same treatment. Tikin xic translates to “dry fish” in Mayan—the dish used to be made with dried fish. Today’s versions are anything but dry, especially when you use fish with a high oil content, like black cod. Photo: Victor Protasio
Active Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
Total Time:
9 hrs 40 mins


  • 1/4 cup achiote powder (ground annatto)

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 2 whole cloves

  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice

  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar

  • 4 large garlic cloves

  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 4 (1/2-pound) skinless black cod fillets

  • 4 banana leaves

  • 1 lime, thinly sliced

  • Pickled Red Onions

  • 16 (5- to 6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

  • 2 cups black beans, warmed


  1. Stir together achiote powder, cumin seeds, oregano, cloves, allspice, and peppercorns in a small skillet. Cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

  2. Transfer spices to a blender, and process on low speed until coarsely ground, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to high, and process until finely ground, about 40 seconds. Add orange juice, vinegar, garlic, and salt; process until smooth, about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

  3. Pat cod fillets dry with paper towels; arrange in a single layer in a baking dish. Pour marinade over fish. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove fish from refrigerator, and bring to room temperature. Using scissors, remove stiff edge of banana leaves, then cut into 14- x 8-inch rectangles. Wipe both sides of banana leaves with a damp kitchen towel to remove any dirt. Using tongs, hold each leaf a few inches over a gas flame, turning leaf often, until softened and aromatic, about 3 minutes. (The leaves will darken as they wilt.) Alternatively, soak the banana leaves in very hot tap water until pliable, about 10 minutes.

  5. Wipe off excess marinade from fish; season both sides with additional salt. Place banana leaves, ridged side down, on a flat surface. Place 1 fillet, skin side up, in center of each banana leaf. For each fillet, fold short end of leaf up and over fish, then fold long end up and over to make a small packet around fillet. Arrange packets, seam side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven until fish is flaky, 15 to 20 minutes.

  6. Using scissors, cut banana leaves from fish. Using a spatula, transfer fish to a serving platter. Discard banana leaves. Top fish with lime slices and Pickled Red Onions. Serve with tortillas and black beans.

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