Sampling the Menu: Best of Caribbean Cuisine

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.

 

Sampling the Menu Best of Caribbean Cuisine - Conch

 

Conch

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.

 

Sampling the Menu Best of Caribbean Cuisine - Run Down in Jamaica

 

Oil Down

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.

 

Sampling the Menu Best of Caribbean Cuisine - Mountain Chicken

 

Mountain Chicken

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.

 

Sampling the Menu Best of Caribbean Cuisine - Rum Cake

 

Rum Cake

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.

 

Sampling the Menu Best of Caribbean Cuisine - Cou cou

 

Cou-cou

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.’

 

Sampling the Menu Best of Caribbean Cuisine - Ackee and Saltfish

 

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.

 

Sampling the Menu Best of Caribbean Cuisine - Jerk Seasoning

 

Jerk Seasoning

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?

 

Nicole

Author: Nicole

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16 Comments

  1. Caribbean food is not something I have ever tried! I don’t even think I’ve had the famous Jerk Chicken before. I think I’d like the flavours of these foods – I love fried plantains, okra and rice & beans so maybe I should give it a shot.
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  2. I grew up between the islands of Barbados and Trinidad of which of parents are native. Cou cou is amazing. There is also flying fish (fried) which has a thinner but to similar similar shape to talapia. The only way to describe the taste is if you taste it yourself. It is somewhat a more aromatic fish.
    With the salt fish that is used to go with cou cou we also make something called fish cakes. This is known as Accra in Trinidad. If you ever have the opportunity to try them I do suggest it!

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  3. Love cevechie with conch snapper shrimp and baby octopus with chips and a cold brew yummy best I have had was on ambergris Caye Belize ! Love jerk chicken too it is easy to do at home lots of good recipes for jerk marinade and/ or dry seasoning out there.

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  4. It’s much cheaper to travel in Mexico and Central America than it is to visit the Caribbean, but honestly, by following some simple budget tips, you’ll be able to do it!

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    • Michael

      Yes, the Caribbean is definitely one of the more expensive areas of the world, but you can definitely do it on a budget. Some islands are cheaper than others, and if you eat like the locals eat you can save a lot of money.
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