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Caribbean food is a fusion of influences from around the world. Due to its long colonial history and centuries of involvement with other cultures and countries, the Caribbean has fused together many ingredients and flavors to make it its own. Within the Caribbean, there is great diversity in both flavor and execution, and many dishes created are unique to the islands. What better way to determine the top 10 must try Caribbean foods than to take the advice of the locals? That being said, a good place to start in sampling Caribbean cuisine is to start with a sampling of the country’s national dishes. Many of these dishes are also found on other islands, sometimes with a different name.
Fungee & Pepperpot – Antigua & Barbuda
Fungee is made from cornmeal paste and is similar to an Italian polenta. It is rolled into balls and is often served with a sauce and masked vegetables. Pepperpot is a combination of a variety of meats, including vegetables, spinach, eggplant, okra, onions, spices & seasonings, boiled to a soupy finish.
Crack Conch with Peas and Rice – Bahamas
Crack Conch with Peas and Rice. Conch is a favorite seafood used in many dishes in the Bahamas, but crack conch is thinly sliced conch battered and fried. It can be an appetizer or a main entrée.
Coo-Coo and Flying Fish – Barbados
A polenta-like cornmeal and okra porridge, coo-coo pairs perfectly with flying fish, which is either steamed with lime juice, spices, and vegetables or fried and served with a spicy sauce as a main entrée.
Mountain Chicken – Dominica
The mountain chicken is not, as its name suggests, a bird, but is in fact one of the largest frogs in the world. It is found only on the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Montserrat, and is colloquially referred to as crapaud, pronounced – crappo. This dish is often heavily seasoned and stewed, boiled or fried until golden brown and then served with white rice, rice & peas, or provisions Prepared as a main entre. So tastily done, you won’t believe it wasn’t chicken.
Oil Down – Grenada
This is a hearty one-pot meal of salted meat, chicken, dumplings, breadfruit, callaloo – made from young dasheen leaves and other vegetables. The whole thing is stewed in coconut milk, herbs and spices to add even more flavor.
Pepper Pot – Guyana
Pepperpot is a stewed meat dish, strongly flavored with cinnamon, hot peppers, and Cassareep, a special extract sauce made from the Cassava root, and some sort of meat like Beef, pork, or mutton.
Griots with Rice & Beans – Haiti
Griots is a rich, flavorful dish and is one of Haiti’s most popular, invariably served at parties and family gatherings. Cubes of pork are soaked in a sour orange marinade and then slow-roasted until tender. The tender morsels are then given a finally fry in oil until delectably caramelized.
Arroz con Gandulez and Pernil – Puerto Rico
Pernil is pork shoulder roasted over an open fire for hours, marinated with Adobo, sofrito, and garlic. Paired with rice and pigeon peas, this is a popular dish year-round, but particularly for special occasions.
Photo courtesy of Jing A Ling
Ackee and Saltfish – Jamaica
Ackee is a nutritious fruit with a buttery-nutty flavor, resembling scrambled egg when boiled. Jamaicans sauté the boiled ackee with saltfish (salt-cured cod), onions, and tomatoes. Sometimes the dish is served atop bammy (deep-fried cassava cakes) with fried plantains.
Pelau– Trinidad & Tobago
Pelau is a one pot meal. This popular rice dish can be cooked with any type of meat or combination of meat: chicken, beef, lamb, goat, pork, and even “wild meat” and is usually cooked with fresh coconut milk. It is mixed with pigeon peas and vegetables.
Sancocho – Dominican Republic
Pronounced San-co-cho, this hearty stew is made with vegetable or ground provisions such as yams, yucca, potatoes etc. and a variety of meats, red beans and rice.
So if you are planning on traveling to these islands soon or visiting your local Caribbean restaurant, be sure to look out for these well-loved national dishes. Don’t be afraid to try one of these dishes at home. To find great recipes for the above dishes, you can reference recipe sources by clicking here. Whatever your personal tastes you will find that Caribbean Cuisine will add some spice to your life. Enjoy!