The Caribbean encompasses many countries and a mixture of cultures. But when it comes to popular food in this region, what exactly is Caribbean cuisine?
Essentially, Caribbean cuisine is a mixture of foods from many cultures. It includes ingredients and flavors from many parts of the world. African, Creole, Cajun, Amerindian, European, Latin American, East/North Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese cuisine have all had an influence on Caribbean cooking. Nevertheless, all these distinct flavors have melded together to create a recognizably “Caribbean” cuisine.
It’s important to remember that the Caribbean region includes many different countries. Furthermore, each of these countries has their own variations on traditional Caribbean dishes.
Common ingredients in Caribbean cuisine
Since Caribbean nations share similar topography and climate, they tend to share many of the same ingredients in everyday cooking. Here are the most common ingredients in Caribbean cuisine:
- sweet potatoes
- bell peppers
Caribbean cooks use a popular marinade made with oil and green herbs in a variety of dishes. This seasoning can include garlic, cilantro, celery, onions or green onions, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary, among others.
Typical dishes in Caribbean cuisine
Traditional dishes are a very important part of Caribbean culture. In fact, most Caribbean countries have selected their own national dish. Here are some national dishes that you should definitely try on your next Caribbean vacation:
- Pepperpot Stew: this slow-cooked stew is chock-full of meat, aubergine, okra, squash and potatoes. Fungi and pepperpot is the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda.
- Flying fish and cou cou: this delightful seafood favorite is the national dish of Barbados. Flying fish are plentiful around this Caribbean island. Bajans steam them up and serve them with cou cou, a paste made with cornmeal and okra similar to polenta.
- Ackee and saltfish: Caribbean cuisine wouldn’t be complete without the national dish of Jamaica. Although this island nation is famous for its tasty jerk seasoning, the national dish is actually a locally-caught fish and ackee, a peculiar fruit that resembles scrambled eggs when cooked.
- Sancocho: Pronounced “sohn- ko-cho”, the national dish of Dominican Republic is perfect for any time of day. It’s a hearty stew made with meat (often several types) and big chunks of ground provisions like yucca, yams, and potatoes.
- Keshi Yena: The national dish of Curacao is perfect for cheese fanatics– it’s literally “stuffed cheese”! It features beef, goat or chicken, plus various vegetables and seasonings. Sometimes it may even contain raisins.
- Ropa Vieja: The name of this popular dish in Caribbean cuisine means “old clothes” in Spanish. However, it certainly tastes better than it sounds. This national dish of Cuba is typically shredded beef with yellow rice and seasonings. Get a recipe here.
Try some Caribbean food on your next trip!
Trying new foods in a foreign country can be difficult at times. However, you’ll never know if you like something if you don’t try it! So, whether you travel to Curacao or Barbados for your next vacation, or somewhere in between, be sure to try all that Caribbean cuisine has to offer.