Caribbean Food and Drink
Caribbean cuisine has adopted flavors from Africa, England, Spain, France, India, China and more, all blended into what is known as modern Caribbean cuisine. Many of these influences resurface in regional dishes that feature familiar flavors combined with exotic ingredients.
Jamaica, for example, is famous for their meat patties, plus jerk chicken and pork. Sample the jerk at Boston Beach in Portland parish, for the most authentic version, as this is where jerk was reportedly created. The seasonings used to create jerk pork or chicken are reminiscent of Creole spices. Jamaica also produces some of the world’s best and most expensive coffee, most of which is grown on the Blue Mountains.
Trinidad and Tobago are famous for their curry dishes served with roti. For a local specialty try a shark sandwich in Trinidad, best sampled at Richard’s Shark and Bake in Maracas Beach, this dish is made with young, freshly caught shark that is lightly battered and inserted in a light, unleavened fried-bread called bake. Exotic condiments such as tamarind, shadon benny (a cilantro-like herb), chutneys and scotch bonnet sauces will make your sandwich that much more authentic.
The Bahamas are known for their conch dishes. Served as conch fritters, conch salads or conch chowder, this regional ingredient from the sea has become an iconic representation of these islands.
Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis are known for their Caribbean goat stew. This regional specialty is a stew combining goat, tomatoes, breadfruit, papaya and dumplings.
Callaloo is a uniquely Caribbean dish that varies from country to country, but it usually involves leaves from the amaranth plant (known locally in many regions as callaloo), meats and seasonings such as onions and garlic. Then it is slowly simmered until it becomes a stew-like consistency.
English speaking islands are known for their pelau, or cook-up. This dish combines various meats or fish that are cooked with pigeon peas, vegetables or rice. Another English speaking island is Antigua, and their national dish is funji. Funji is very similar to the Italian dish polenta and is made almost entirely out of cornmeal and then enhanced with spices.
Rum is the ubiquitous alcohol in the Caribbean, and the Caribbean is one of the few key producers of rum in the world. Rum is an important part of the culture in many countries in the West Indies, and depending on the grade of the rum it is served in myriad fruity cocktails like a Rum Runner,or Rum Punch. Some national beers worth trying are Presidente from Haiti, Red Stripe from Jamaica, and Kalik from the Bahamas.
Caribbean cuisine as a whole is distinct and highly flavorful. Each country has their specialties and local ingredients, but all of it is wonderful. Next time you’re visiting an island in the Caribbean, be sure to ask about their national dish or national drink, and make a point of trying it!