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Love jerk chicken or curry goat and want to try more? Now’s the time to take a deep dive into Caribbean cuisine. The fusion of spices, herbs and seasonings makes for mouth-watering food – and it usually comes in generous portions. Tempted? Here’s our guide to the tastiest Caribbean dishes to try next.
Savoury pastries that flake in the mouth, wrapped around fillings including beef, chicken and saltfish; this Caribbean morsel delivers flavours that are satisfying on the palate. Patties can be found in a range of restaurants but are extra delicious when homemade, plus they can be customised to your taste. Fillings and seasonings vary from patty to patty but the vegetarian and pork and potato options make a perfect, indulgent snack.
A yellow-fleshed savoury fruit soft in texture and slightly sweet when cooked, ackee is perfect when combined with salty cod and the result is a flavourful plate of food, widely consumed in Jamaica. No wonder, too, as it’s the national dish. The unique flavours and textures, carefully combined with seasonings, spices, onions and pepper, make this morning dish wholesome and filling – perfect for breakfast or brunch.
A marinade featuring fiery Scotch bonnet peppers, nutmeg and pimentos, jerk chicken is a spicy delight. The chicken is rubbed with the spices and then either roasted or barbecued, and served with rice and peas (see below). Variations on the theme abound and every plate is unique. Jerk chicken is a popular dish that must be tried – and once you do, you’ll find a recurring hankering for the taste.
Plantain is a core ingredient that instantly conjures up Caribbean cooking. Resembling a large banana with a starchy but soft texture when cooked, and a sweet taste, plantains are the perfect accompaniment to any Caribbean dish. Unlike bananas, plantains must be cooked before eating, and the fruit is often fried and served alongside chicken and rice. The sweetness counterbalances the savoury parts of the dish and is a delightful side-serving.
For many, rice and peas is a comfort food recalling family life in the Caribbean. Fluffy rice boiled with creamy coconut milk and kidney beans (or gungo peas), rice and peas is a central part of the Caribbean diet, and a point of pride in many homes. The dish varies according to taste but the the key flavours are thyme, scallion and garlic, plus chilli, and it works beautifully on the side of chicken, pork or seafood dishes.
A dish with roots in Asia and popular throughout the Caribbean, curry goat is a delicacy with big flavours and succulent texture. Slow-cooked with turmeric, curry powder, chilli and thyme, and served piping hot, curried goat can be eaten with rice and peas, or potatoes. Its melt-in-the-mouth consistency is best when the meat is just falling off the bone – delicious.
Sweet, orange potatoes are a starchy carbohydrate resembling their white cousins and are a filling accompaniment to any dish; as a bonus they also count as one of your five-a-day. They can be roasted, boiled or baked, combined with spices and served up in a steaming bowl for a colourful side-serving with chicken, lamb or pork. Sweet potatoes are also great in stews, adding an extra dimension that makes Caribbean eats all the more delectable.
Small morsels or rounded coins packed with flavour, saltfish fritters are the perfect appetiser or pre-dinner snack. They’re hugely popular in West Indian cuisine, deliver a salty punch to the tongue and whet the appetite. Mixed with flour, herbs and peppers the saltfish is shaped into circular, bite-sized portions which are then fried in hot oil. Crispy on the outside and soft and flaky in the middle, these golden tidbits are irresistible.
Traditional, sweet-tasting snacks, coconut drops are small chunks of white, fleshy coconut, sprinkled with sugar and ginger. Popular in Jamaica (and everywhere else it goes), this is a snack best enjoyed with afternoon tea and can be made by boiling coconut in water infused with brown sugar, then left to cool.
Widely consumed in Barbados where it’s the national dish, flying fish is a joyfully named and satisfying recipe. The fish is steamed or stewed and combined with a mixture of herbs and seasonings such as onions, thyme and tomato to intensify the flavour. Usually eaten with cou-cou (like polenta) flying fish conjures up images for many of their grandmother’s kitchen in Jamaica – and it’s also great on a rainy day.
Exotic and sweet, guinep is a delicious fruit grown in Jamaica, similar to the lychee. It can be eaten as a snack or squeezed for a refreshing juice drunk. Guineps have a firm skin that should be removed before eating. The white, fleshy part of the fruit has an intense, sometimes tangy zing that will wake up your taste buds.
A green vegetable dish that’s wholesome, fresh and versatile, callaloo is made from local leaves similar to spinach and can be eaten with a range of dishes. Native to Africa but popular in the Caribbean, it adds texture to soups and patties, and some nutrient greens to other mains. The leaf is usually rinsed, steamed or boiled to taste.
A rich, starchy root vegetable that’s filling, nutritious and wholesome, yams are a staple of the Caribbean diet and can be eaten in a variety of ways, with a plethora of dishes. Yams come in a range of colours and can be served as part of a thick soup or as a boiled, mashed or fried accompaniment. Their versatility makes them perfect for any occasion – they can even be made into chips.
High in protein, filling and energising, breadfruit is considered a wonder food. Related to the popular jackfruit, breadfruit can be eaten raw or cooked, but is usually peeled, chopped, boiled or roasted like a potato, then served up as a side dish. It’s great in soups or spicy curries and tastes a bit like bread (as the name suggests). A humble, versatile ingredient that adds flair to Caribbean cooking.