A Taste of the Caribbean
During your cruise, sample these authentic island flavors.
Walk through any major town on a Caribbean island and you are sure to be drawn by the succulent fragrance of spicy seafood or the tantalizing smell of a scotch-bonnet-flavored chicken being grilled over a pimento-wood fire. Go a little farther and you will be dazzled by the colors of fruits such as the deep purple Otaheite apple or the Kelly green guinep, neither of which you will hardly find anywhere but in this region. Food is indeed an integral part of tradition and family life throughout the Caribbean. With recipes influenced by the cultures of the peoples who settled there, dishes in the Caribbean tend to be a mixture of Indian, African, British, Spanish, and Chinese cuisines with an indigenous island twist. Each country comes with its own signature meal, often referred to as the national dish. As you journey through the Caribbean, take the opportunity to get a taste of the local flavors on each island you visit.
Antigua and Barbados
The island of Antigua offers a flavorful dish called fungi (pronounced foon-gee), which consists of cornmeal, okra, and flying fish topped with an aromatic sauce of fresh tomatoes, onions, chives, garlic, and peppers. A favorite with visitors and locals alike, this mix (similar to Italian polenta) is not to be eaten without a side of ducana—an Antiguan sweet-potato dumpling. Wash it all down with local fresh fruit juices, which range from mango to passion fruit to hibiscus, plus a ton of other island flavors.
Antigua shares its national dish with Barbados, where it is called cou-cou (pronounced coo-coo). On Barbados, the dish is so popular that for the preparation of the meal the Bajan people created a special utensil called the cou-cou stick, a narrow, rectangular foot-long paddle.
Although the national dish in this Central-American country is rice and beans, it most definitely isn’t your standard recipe. This Belizean meal comes with a stewed meat (chicken, pork, or beef) or a whole snapper and is served with fried plantains and a local Belikin beer. The Wet Lizard Bar and Restaurant, in the Belize City Tourist Village, serves this tasty lunch along with Belizean ceviche and salutes, a corn tortilla filled with vegetables and tomatoes.
Because of Mexico’s diverse population, the country hasn’t designated an official national dish. There is one sauce, however, that definitely exemplifies the composite culture of the nation. Mole poblano, originating in the state of Puebla, is a unique mixture of ingredients including chili peppers and chocolate that create a smooth, rich, flavorful sauce; it is delicious over turkey, shrimp, or just about any other food you can imagine. Pancho’s Backyard, in Cozumel, serves Puebla’s famous mole sauce over chicken enchiladas, alongside a serving of Mexican rice, for a true sample of the country’s haute cuisine.
While spicy, jerk-seasoned meat is Jamaica’s most well-known food, it is not actually the island’s national dish. The distinguished title goes to ackee and salt fish. The ackee is a pear-shaped fruit with three large black seeds surrounded by a spongy, light yellow flesh. It is seasoned and cooked alongside salt fish, which is dried, salted, and sautéed cod. Together the two are served with breadfruit—a large, round, starchy fruit—hard-dough bread, boiled green bananas, or dumplings to make a perfect meal anytime, but especially for breakfast.
A trip to the spice island of Grenada is not complete without sampling the island’s famous Oil Down: salted meat, chicken, dumplings, breadfruit, callaloo, and vegetables stewed in coconut milk and spices all in one huge pot. It’s divine, especially when paired with bakes, light flour dumplings. This simple yet robust meal is popular in restaurants across the island including at the acclaimed BB’s Crabback in St. George’s.
The island of Puerto Rico delights the taste buds with two amazing offerings: the piña colada and a special dish called arroz con gandules and peril (rice with pigeon peas and pork shoulder). Cooked in olive oil infused with annatto seeds (similar to saffron), this customary Puerto Rican dish has gained popularity throughout Latin America and is especially good at Restaurant Barrachina in San Juan. Restaurant Barrachina also happens to be known for Puerto Rico’s official drink, the piña colada, a sweet pineapple-and-rum-based cocktail.
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