Although some cooking traditions have been borrowed from the colonizing powers on each island, there are more culinary similarities than differences throughout the Caribbean. Fish is eaten on every island, and the side dish of beans and rice also remains common. Assortments of tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapples, and mangoes are quite naturally on island menus as well. Yet while journeying through the Caribbean, there is always a chance that something unfamiliar might end up on your plate. Here are some of the more exotic foods you may come across.
A popular food source in Caribbean, conch is cooked in everything from stew to fritters. Preparations methods are varied and range from sautéing thin pieces to frying. In a number of locations, the gastropod is marinated in lime juice and eaten raw, sometimes on salads.
This dish comes from Grenada and Trinidad. It is comprised of mashed breadfruit, coconut milk, turmeric, dumplings (large noodles) and taro leaves. The dish is often made using salt pork, but serving it with a pig’s tail is more traditional. However, this entrée can be made using a variety of meats. The recipe goes by the name of Maetem Ghee in Guyana and is known as the Run Down in Jamaica.
The national dish of Dominica, this dish is actually the cooked hind legs of the giant ditch frog or the crapaud. Due to the fact that these frogs are now critically endangered, perhaps visitors to the islands would do well to stick to other meat dishes instead of sampling this one.
The Caribbean does not lack for home grown spirits, but none is more popular than rum. So it no surprise that for holidays, the locals celebrate by not only drinking the rum, but also putting it into cakes. This dish is prepared by soaking dried fruit in rum for three months, then adding the fruit to caramelized sugar dough in order to be baked. This intoxicating cake resembles a traditional English fruitcake in texture.
On the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a special form of the rum cake is concocted using Black Wine liquor and the cake bears the same name. In Puerto Rico, rum cake has a texture resembling sponge cake and the fruit is only soaked in rum for a number of hours rather than months.
Originating on the island of Barbados, this side dish is composed of cooked okra, flour, and corn meal. It is traditionally served with a side of fried Flying Fish for a quick and easy weeknight supper. On Antigua Island, this same recipe goes by the name of ‘fungi’ or ‘fungee.’
Ackee and Salt Fish
The ackee fruit is indigenous to Africa but was imported to Jamaica in the 1700s, where it gave rise to this popular dish. If improperly cooked or eaten at immature stages, this fruit can be slightly toxic but that should not deter you from sampling this delicacy. The salted fish, typically cod, is soaked overnight to make it less salty. The fish is then cooked together with the ackee, onions, tomatoes and various spices for an excellent one-pot meal.
Traditionally used on roasted chicken or pork, this seasoning blend contains hot peppers or chilies and allspice. Other ingredients which maybe included are: thyme, garlic, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, scallions, and nutmeg in varying amounts. This seasoning blend originated as a means of helping preserve meat, but has since become very popular. Today the season is eaten on everything from fish to baked potatoes and popcorn.
What are some of your favorite Caribbean foods?