Taste buds, rejoice! These strange-looking Caribbean foods taste much better than they look or sound.
If you’ve ever traveled to the West Indies, you know that there is ample variety in Caribbean cuisine. This variety has made the way for all sorts of “strange” foods to become part of the Caribbean culinary scene.
The following Caribbean foods may seem weird to us, but those who have tasted them know that they are simply wonderful.
1. Salted Pigtail
Maybe the tail isn’t the first part you would ask for when you want to eat pig meat (mmm…bacon…). However, salted pig tail soup or stew turns this oddity into a delicacy. This dish is often called pig tail palau or pig tail callaloo. Many Caribbean islanders see it as a comfort food.
In Puerto Rico, some people microwave pig tails and slide them into sandwiches with cheese and mayo. It may sound strange, but don’t turn your piggy nose up at it until you’ve try it!
Countries where pig tails might turn up: Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Barbados, and others.
Get a pigtail soup recipe here.
Some say it tastes like chicken. And on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, iguana meat (shown in the photo that opens this article) often passes for poultry. For whatever reason, these large greenish reptiles have become part of every day Caribbean cuisine for some. It may be because there are so many of them in Caribbean countries. In some places, iguanas are even considered an invasive species. To solve this problem, people in many Caribbean nations have decided to add them to the menu.
Over the years, iguanas have gained a more “acceptable” status as a meal protein, and have even been given the hilarious nickname of “chicken of the trees.”
But how exactly is iguana cooked, you might ask? It is usually roasted in the same way you might roast a duck. However, it can also be incorporated into stew or soup.
Here are six ways to cook iguana.
Countries where you may be able to eat iguana meat: Puerto Rico, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Curacao
Conch (pronounced “conk” and never “consh”) is not a common food outside the Caribbean because they are only native to the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and some other Caribbean coasts.
It is basically a large, edible sea snail. You could also classify it as a sea mollusk. Sometimes it is referred to as the “queen conch”. It can take up to 5 years to reach maturity, a fact that has contributed to its endangerment.
Since they take a long time to reach the age at which they can mate, and are also easily fished out of shallow waters, the conch population has gone down dramatically in recent years.
For that reason, it is now illegal to fish for conch in the state of Florida. However, it is legal in the Bahamas and a few other places, but the conch trade is heavily regulated.
There are many ways to eat this giant sea snail: in a conch salad, fried into conch fritters, cracked conch, and a cracked conch sandwich.
See a recipe for a Bahamian-style conch salad here.
Countries where you might find conch dishes: Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos
This Caribbean fruit with a strange name isn’t endemic to the Caribbean, but now it’s a staple food there. It was brought to the Caribbean during the colonial era from the Pacific island of Tahiti.
Breadfruit tastes more like a vegetable than a fruit. You may find it similar to a potato. In the Caribbean, people eat it fried, as a side dish or snack, in pudding as a dessert, and even in salad. It’s one of the most versatile fruits to exist.
See a Jamaican recipe for fried breadfruit.
Places to eat breadfruit: Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Belize, Dominican Republic, and more
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. It is also sometimes called the achee or ackee apple. A native of West Africa, it was brought to the Caribbean during the colonial era. It is pear-shaped, and reddish-orange when ripe.
Because it has such a mild, buttery taste, ackee is the perfect complement to salt fish. It really has its own unique flavor–some even say it tastes like cheese. That’s probably why ackee and saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish!
Try your hand at a traditional ackee and saltfish recipe here.
Where to find ackee: Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, Barbados, and others
6. Tree Mutton
The name is definitely confusing, and this dish is probably unlike anything you’ve ever eaten before. Tree Mutton is actually monkey meat. That’s right– some people in the Caribbean actually eat monkeys. Once Vervet monkeys (or Green monkeys, as they are sometimes called) were imported from West Africa, they basically took over the island of St. Kitts. They also swing from the trees in the jungles of Barbados. People first began to consume their meat as a means of combating overpopulation.
The name “tree mutton” comes from the popular opinion that vervet monkey meat tastes like mutton.
Where you might be able to try “tree mutton”: St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados
7. Mountain chicken
Move over, chicken of the trees– here comes another creature that has nothing to do with poultry and yet carries its moniker. In Dominica and Montserrat, people eat a giant frog and refer to it as a mountain chicken. Its real name is the giant ditch frog, and it’s one of the largest frogs in the world. It is native to the Caribbean, and now is an endangered species thanks to people “mistaking” it for chicken. There are now very few places to find it as part of a meal.
Please, we know that eating a big fat frog sounds so delicious, but due to its endangered status, you’ll have to take a hard pass on this one (wink wink).
Main image source: Kristen Sarah
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I didn’t know that jackfruit actually tastes more like a vegetable than a fruit. I’m interested in trying out a Caribbean restaurant someday so I’d like to start learning more about the kinds of ingredients I have to expect. Hopefully, I will be able to feel the vibe of being on a beach through the flavors of such cuisine.