Caribbean cuisine blends international fare with regional ingredients
By Janice Wald Henderson
When it comes to defining Caribbean flavors, first comes a blend of native and African cuisines with European such as French, Spanish, Dutch, and British. Then, add local ingredients such as fresh flavorful fish, sun-ripened tropical fruits and vegetables, and aromatic spices. Now imagine the melting pot of deliciousness! Depending on its cultural influences, each island puts a spin on what comes to the table. And trust me, it’s all good.
Perhaps no Caribbean dish is more justifiably famous than jerk chicken or pork — sweet, fiery, smoky-tasting, and addictive. A Jamaican staple, it’s also wildly popular on Trinidad, Barbados, and other islands. Chefs riff on the dry or wet-rub recipe, but allspice, thyme, soy, ginger, cinnamon, and crazy-hot Scotch bonnet peppers are usually among the enchanting marinade ingredients. After the meat soaks up all the flavor, it’s smoked over wood or grilled.
Many of us turn to our smart phones to figure out the names of Caribbean dishes. But there’s no guarantee you’ll get good Wi-Fi on the islands, and don’t forget those roaming charges. So before you set sail, study this cheat sheet — and then go eat.
- Ackee: A vegetable that looks like scrambled eggs when cooked. When served with saltfish (salted cod), it’s the national dish of Jamaica.
- Callaloo Stew: Made with callaloo leaves from the taro plant. Most popular in Jamaica, Dominica, Trinidad, and Tobago. This thick stew is cooked with coconut milk and okra and might contain salt pork, smoked ham, or seafood.
- Cassareep: The juice of the bitter cassava root is boiled into a syrup and used to flavor sauces, primarily in the West Indies.
- Festival: Deep-fried sweetened cornbread dumplings, often served with…
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Photo: Jamaica Tourist Board