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Calling all foodies to the Caribbean, dinner is served! There is so much more to Caribbean foods than Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Not that there is anything wrong with the sweet and savory Jamaican dish, but the rich and unique experience of Puerto Rico cuisine awaits.
Puerto Rican cuisine transcends beyond the Archipelagos to include Spanish, African and native influence. Warm drizzles of olive oil blend with the sublime culantro and achiote can combine to elevate simple rice and chicken dishes to a mouth watering inspiration. Pair with your favorite rum cocktail and you are transported to the islands for an escape from the cold winter months. Whether on the coast or inland, there are countless indulgences to try, such as savory empanadillas – dough filled with ground meats and spices, to lightly sweetened coconut flan. Each bite is infused with a melange of flavors. Exquisite local ingredients blend in perfect harmony with imported items the region has made its own, creating flavor combinations that simply are not found elsewhere.
The history of Puerto Rican cuisine began with the ingredients found only on the islands then grew rapidly as outside influences arrived. Before wheat, which doesn’t grow indigenously, the natives used Taro and Cassava as a bread and they can still be found today in the form of casabe crackers. When plantains arrived from Africa, the casabe was largely replaced. These are flattened and fried into tostones as a side accompaniment to any dish, or they can be boiled, or sliced and layered with meat and cheese for a tropical Puerto Rican version of the lasagna. To this day, the plantain is celebrated throughout the cocina criolla, or what we call the local cuisine.
The cuisine includes a mastery of herbs, particularly culantro, oregano and annato. It’s a delight to taste and try to recreate. Caribbean foods boast use of every meat, including sausages like Salchicon, Botifarra, Morcilla and chorizo. Salchicon is a type of salami, rich and peppery while Botifarra is born from Portugal and Brazil’s influence and might remind you of Bratwurst. Instead of boiled with beans the way a Spaniard might make it, Puerto Rican chefs grill and fry the sausage, caramelizing the meat and drawing out a full smoky flavor and an unexpected sweetness. Morcilla is a blood sausage made with pork blood and rice, spiced deliciously with onion, garlic and sometimes clove or cinnamon. Spain as a major influence brought sausages and holiday rituals like pasteles which are similar to a tamale. The people of Puerto Rico now consider these a holiday staple and prepare the fillings similarly to mincemeat with meat, spices and raisins, only instead of a crust the contents are
There is almost no influence that can’t be recognized as incorporated in Caribbean foods. These distinct flavors and ingredients, combined with the adventurous creativity of the people create unique Caribbean foods ready for you to explore.