Created on: March 05, 2013
Defining Caribbean cuisine is very difficult because it is such a mishmash of different flavors, which vary across the region. Cultures that have influenced Caribbean cuisine include Arawak Indian, Carib Indian, Chinese, French, Indian, British, African and Spanish. Some dishes may appear in one island group only, whereas others may appear in several. However, one thing that it generally has in common is that it is spicy, piquant and fresh, consisting of lots of fish, rice, meat and vegetables.
Whether you want to learn how to cook Caribbean-style, or you just want to know what to ask for in a Caribbean restaurant, the following information should give you a greater understanding of some of the different cuisines in the region.
Much of the Caribbean cuisine available in the United Kingdom is Jamaican, simply because of the historical links between the two countries. Jamaican food is generally considered to be fresh, healthy and extremely tasty, often flavored with tangy Scotch bonnet peppers. However, there are a number of other common ingredients, including plantains, yams, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, callaloo (a type of vegetable) and beans.
When it comes to main dishes, beef, chicken and fish are common ingredients. One of the most iconic Jamaican dishes is jerk chicken, usually accompanied by rice and peas. Jerk chicken is prepared by marinating the chicken in a potent mixture of spices, ideally overnight, then grilling. Rice and peas involves simmering rice and kidney beans and other ingredients in coconut milk. Note that although the dish is called rice and peas, the recipe involves beans, not peas. Other popular Jamaican dishes include various curries and patties, which are pastries with savory fillings.
Trinidad and Tobago cuisine
The results of the 1990 census showed that 40% of the population of Trinidad and Tobago is black and another 40% is East Indian. The rest of the population is made up of Chinese, white and mixed race people. The cuisine is therefore a real mixture of curries, stews, dumplings and even Chinese dishes. However, one dish that is generally considered to be a typical Trinidadian meal is crab, often served in a curry sauce, and accompanied by dumplings.
Fish is particularly popular, with other dishes such as shark and bake, which is bread filled with a shark fillet, and buljol, or salted codfish. Meat is also popular though, particularly curried goat, beef and chicken, as well as pigs’ trotters served luke-warm or cold in a sauce. Common accompaniments include flavorsome chutneys, sauces and roti.
Haitian culture is made up of a mixture of African, Spanish, French and Indian influences. The rice and peas so commonly found in other regions of the Caribbean is also a popular dish here, but there are a number of dishes that are essentially Haitian. These include sauce pois noir, or black bean sauce; griot, or fried pork; lambi a la creole, or conch in creole sauce; and saumon grille, or grilled salmon. Scotch bonnet pepper, citrus fruits, herbs and spices are frequent ingredients, ensuring that the piquant taste of the Caribbean is still present, but at the same time allowing for Haitian cuisine to be distinguishable from its counterparts.
There is so much more to Caribbean cuisine than it is possible to write about in this article. However, for anyone wishing to try Caribbean food for the first time, it should provide some food for thought.
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