By Kenya Barrett
Beside sun-filled beaches and several well-known attractions, the Caribbean is also popular for its flavorful dishes!
From the Bahamas right on down to Aruba and Curacao, each country has its own meal that people around the world have grown to love. Here are 8 dishes everyone should try when visiting the Caribbean islands.
Conch Fritters - Bahamas
One of the Bahama’s most prominent meats that are served to locals and tourists is indeed the famed conch. This sea snail is often cooked and infused into various seafood dishes including conch fritters. These fried snacks use strips of conch meat that are added to a batter seasoned with spices, onion, bell peppers, fresh tomatoes, and a snip of the very hot scotch bonnet pepper. The batter is then deep fried for a few minutes to create something similar to a fish stick – but is just made with conch, and is way tastier.
Honorable mention: Conch ceviche - While conch is popularly eaten cooked, a raw edible version of the dish does exist. Conch ceviche is pretty much a raw conch salad tossed with green onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, a pinch of lime juice, and additional spices. Occasionally this ceviche can be combined with shrimp or scallops and is paired with fresh chips.
Oxtail - Jamaica
As the name suggests, oxtail is the tail meat of an ox or more commonly, a cow. To the surprise of many, oxtail may just be the most tender piece of the cow and is especially flavorful when stewed in a delicious blend of herbs, spices, and its own broth. This Jamaican dish is common amongst locals and is served with rice and peas and fresh steamed vegetables on the side. Some serve this entree with fried plantains as well.
Honorable mention: Jerked, anything! - Whether you are a fan of chicken, pork, shrimp, or even veggies, they are all able to be “jerked.” This intense blend of peppers, garlic, chilis, and other herbs marries your favorite meat, giving it a spicy yet bold and grilled flavor that is simply unmatched in the Caribbean.
Pastelon - Puerto Rico
If you love sweet plantains, meat, and cheese, then you’ll absolutely love Pastelon! This Puerto Rican dish is a delicious concoction of thinly-sliced plantains layered with ground beef, cheese, herbs, and spices. Essentially, it is a Puerto Rican spin on lasagna, but the Dominican Republic has also created its version of the dish. Some create the lasagna pasta strips by creating a dough made with eggs, salt, plantains, and semolina. It is then layered with tomato sauce, ground meat, and lots of cheese!
Keshi Yena - Aruba and Curacao
Keshi Yena is a traditional dish that comes from the Dutch West Indian islands of Aruba and Curacao. The term “Keshi Yena,” derived from the Papiamento word “kaas” which is “cheese” in Dutch. The dish itself is a large ball of cheese that is stuffed with seasoned meat, herbs, and extra spices. Originally, the meal was created by slaves of the islands who used the leftover cuts of Gouda cheese and stuffed it with dinner table meat scraps. Today, the Keshi Yena can be prepared in ramekins and other fillings can be used such as chicken, olives, and even raisins!
Mangu - Dominican Republic
Like many dishes made in the Caribbean, mangu is a sweet and rich side dish made with plantains. It is prepared by boiling plantains and then mashing them while adding salt, butter, garlic, and a few other light spices. Mangu is commonly served as a breakfast side, usually accommodating fried cheese, fried eggs, and/or Dominican sausage. Traditionally, mangu is topped with pickled red onions, which complement its sweet flavor. Yum!
Creole Bread - St. Lucia
During your time on the romantic island of St. Lucia, you have to get your hands on a loaf of creole bread! This delicious carb-loaded treat can be found at any of the local bakeries and is best to try fresh in the morning. Baked in a wood-fired oven, creole bread dough is often a mixture of fresh spices, sugar, coconut milk, yeast, flour, coconut oil, and water. Once baked, the loaves are usually very soft in texture and feature a unique smoked flavor, which sets them apart from other types of breads.
Bake and Shark - Trinidad & Tobago
Probably one of the most intriguing dishes of the Caribbean, bake and shark stands as a cultural staple of Trinidad and Tobago. This meal consists of “bake” a fried dough that resembles flatbread and well-seasoned shark meat that is deep-fried and placed atop the bake. The sandwich is then topped with lettuce and tomatoes and/or coleslaw and served with simple ketchup or garlic dipping sauce. Some use a delicious mango chutney that brings a sweet kick to the sandwich.
Honorable mention: Doubles - Similar to Bake and Shark, Doubles is pretty much a vegetarian version that uses curried chickpeas instead of shark meat. This breakfast dish is especially good when served with spicy pepper sauce and sweet tamarind sauce.
Flying Fish and Cou Cou - Barbados
This amazing meal serves as the national dish of Barbados and is a tradition in Bajan culture. Made with actual flying fish – a bony fish with wings, native to the waters of Barbados – this delicious staple is surely something to try when visiting the island. To prepare the meal, you must first wash and scale the fish before frying the critter up in a blend of butter, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and other fresh herbs. While the fish is cooking, the Cou-Cou can be prepared. Cou-Cou is a simple cornmeal dough mixture infused with okra that is served as a side for many meat-based stews in the Caribbean.
Which of these delicious meals will you try next?