Dining Specialties of the Caribbean Islands
Just as every island is unique, so is the food served there. One way for visitors to truly experience the Caribbean is through its distinctive food.
By Lisa Mullins Bishop, Caribbean Edge Staff Writer
Cooking techniques, spices, and ingredients vary from island to island. The blend of cultures on the various islands has given each its own trademark cuisine. Be adventurous and seek out local culinary treats. Here's a guide to some of the islands and the native cuisine you won't want to miss.
On this island known as "Little England," you'll find a cuisine that blends the best of Britain and Africa. The native flying fish, with its sweet, mild flavor, is a favorite as is conch. Some other dishes you're likely to encounter include bonavist (small white beans seasoned with pumpkin and herbs), jug-jug (a molded dish of chopped ham, salt beef or pork, and green peas), cou-cou (a savory pudding of cornmeal and okra). The native fruit carambola, or starfruit, is wonderful as well.
If you are a foodie looking for a culinary adventure, you'll find it on St. Martin. This island, half-Dutch and half-French is often called the "Culinary Capital of the Caribbean" and for good reason. The island is home to numerous restaurants serving up dishes from around the world, including French, Indonesian, Italian, Vietnamese. The small village of Grand Case has 27 restaurants serving French, Indonesian, Italian, and Vietnamese foods among others.
Jamaican cuisine has gained quite a following, yet there are probably still some native dishes that will be unfamiliar to visitors. Matrimony is a dessert of oranges, the pulp of the star apple, and milk. Pepperpot is a spicy soup made with the spinachlike callaloo, Indian kale, salted pork, vegetables, peppers, West Indian lobster, and red snapper. Ackee and saltfish is a popular dish on many menus. In this flavorful dish, salted cod is cooked with the fleshy meat of the ackee tree's seeds along with onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Goat is often cooked with Indian curry and then served with boiled green bananas and rice. Boiled rice and peas, baked crab, and of course jerked pork are also native favorites. Tropical fruits such as mangoes, pawpaw, breadfruit, and plantains are also plentiful. Bammy, a bread made of cassava, is served with many dishes.
Banana plantations dot the interior of St. Lucia, so it is no surprise that they play a starring role in the dishes prepared by St. Lucians. Banana bread, banana salad, boiled green bananas accompanied by salt fish--you'll find it all. The local cuisine includes plenty of fish--lobster, snapper, dolphin, kingfish, and swordfish--as well as pepperpot, spicy curries, and callaloo soup.
West Indian cookery is strong here, as are dishes featuring Antigua's famous black pineapples. Curry conch and spicy pepperpot are worth sampling as is fungee, a Caribbean dish made with cornmeal and similar to a vegetable fritter cooked in a casserole. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mangoes, papayas, ginger, and coconut are featured in a variety of dishes as well.
Conch is a native favorite and it's prepared any number of ways. The most popular are conch chowder and conch fritters. Pigeon peas and rice, grouper, and lobster can also be found on many menus.
As you would expect lobster is a popular dish found on many tables. With its long ties to Britain, Bermudian cooks also prepared many traditional English dishes, such as syllabub (a dessert made with guava jelly, cream, and wine), and savory puddings. Cassava pie made with cassava and filled with chicken and pork can be found on many menus as can sweet potato pudding.
Johnnycakes are popular here as is spicy pepperpot, made with the leafy spinachlike callaloo, potatoes, hot peppers, and spices. The Jamaican favorite ackee and saltfish can be found in many restaurants. Dishes featuring such local produce as breadfruit, cassava, potatoes, and yams are featured on many menus.
Known for its blend of cultures, Curacao's native cuisine reflects this as well. Here you'll find Dutch, Spanish, Creole, and Indonesian dishes. Erwten soep is a thick pea soup cooked with pork, ham, and sausage. Java honden portie is an Indonesian dish of 2 fried eggs on a mountain of rice with steak potatoes and vegetables. Keshi Yena, baked Edam cheese stuffed with meat or fish, is not to be missed. Other soups found on native tables include sopito, a fish soup flavored with coconut; sopi juana, or iguana soup. You'll also find the rijsttafel, or rice table, which consists of rice served with as many as 20 side dishes.
Known as "Spice Island," Grenada is famous for its production of any number of spices and these spices make their way into the local cuisine. Grenadian rum punch is a blend of lime juice syrup, Angostura bitters, grated nutmeg, and rum. Nutmeg ice cream is a dessert worth trying. The ever popular callaloo soup and conch is found on many restaurant menus.
The cuisine of this island has a Spanish flavor. Here you'll find arose con polo (chicken and rice), pastels (a tamale made of ground plantain then stuffed with meat, olives, raisins, and chick peas), lichen aside (barbecued pig), pastilles ( a thin dough filled with meat or cheese and then deep fried), tootsies (fried green plantains), paella, Asao (a soup of rice and chicken or shrimp, cooked with wine sauce and garnished with peas, pimentos, asparagus, and hardboiled eggs.
The foods served here have a distinct creole influence. The small oysters harvested in the waters around Trinidad are famous, and a must try. You'll also find and Indian flavor as well: roti (an Indian dish of curried meat or vegetables stuffed into a soft flour shell), spicy vindaloo. Native cuisine also includes pelau (pigeon peas and rice cooked with chicken or beef in coconut milk and pumpkin), pastelles (a cornmeal pastry filled with meats, raisins, olives, and capers), callaloo soup, and stuffed cascadura a freshwater fish
Turks & Caicos
Fish and seafood are an important part of the cuisine served on this island. Expect to find many dishes featuring grouper, turtle, and wahoo. The Turks & Caicos Islands have the World's Only Conch Farm, and "conch" is the main staple of the island cuisine.