WHAT IS A NATIONAL DISH? Exploring Caribbean Food
Almost every country across the world has its national dish; the definition of a national dish is a meal or food indigenous to one’s country. This food is normally considered a dietary staple, created with uniqueness, and forms a part of a Person’s identity and/self-image; I like to think of a national dish as a culinary tradition that embraces an individual’s cultural heritage, this first and foremost being the West African ancestry infused with cultural practices adapted from the Amerindian settlers, Chinese and Indian laborers. Its colonialists (British, French, Spanish, Etc…), wouldn’t you agree.
Since this website intends to yield an element of Caribbean flavor, allow us to share with you all a sample of each islands’ national dish.
ANGUILLA – PIGEON PEAS & RICE
Pigeon peas are what westerns refer to as “beans,” and of course, most people already know what rice is. As previously mentioned, rice and peas are a culinary favorite amongst island people.
In Anguilla’s case, they have crowned it as their national dish; you can use fresh peas, which would need to be soaked (overnight is best), or canned peas, which are ready to use. The dish is spiced with the appropriate condiments and usually served with meat, poultry, or seafood.
Another Caribbean dish – Aruba-Keshi Yena
This culinary dish consists of spicy shredded beef, chicken, or goat. The meat is somewhat compressed (for lack of a better word) with Edam cheese or Gouda and finally baked.
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA – FUNGIE & PEPPERPOT
“Fungie” or “Fungee” is a dish made with polenta (cornmeal); it is almost similar to the Jamaican delicacy “Turn Cornmeal and the Barbadian dish “Cou-Cou.” Pepperpot is a thick stew with an assortment of salt fish and vegetables (including okra, spinach, eggplant, etc..), herbs, spices, and boiled into a thick, dark green hearty soup.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – FISH AND FUNGI
Similar to Antiguan’s fungi, this national cuisine is essentially cornmeal mixed with okra and not forgetting the fish on the side
BAHAMAS – CRACK CONCH WITH PEAS AND RICE
Conch which is a shellfish, a favorite amongst the Bahamian community, so much so that conch is featured in the national dish. “Cracked Conch” refers to a style of conch, cooked in batter. It is usually served as a main meal with peas and rice, macaroni, potato salad, and plantain on the side
BARBADOS – FLYING FISH AND COU-COU
Bajans love their flying fish and cou-cou, interestingly, flying fish is namely found around the Barbadian waters and is prepared with an aromatic sauce of tomato, onions, and thyme just to name a few.
The fish is grilled, steamed, fried, or battered. Cou-Cou is cornmeal (polenta); other islands such as Jamaica, Antigua make savory dishes using cornmeal; it is made with okra and is traditionally served on Fridays.
CAYMAN ISLANDS – TURTLE
The national dish of the Cayman Islands is no other than a turtle. Turtles are a local delicacy for Caymanian people. The turtles are cooked in many ways, stewed down with other ingredients, used in soup, or braised as steak
CUBA – ROPA VIEJA
Ropa Vieja means “old clothes” in Spanish. Ropa Vieja the dish is West African and was influenced with a Spanish twist. This dish is a mixture of shredded beef, cooked with a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs, served on a with yellow rice with black beans and fried plantain.
DOMINICA – MOUNTAIN CHICKEN
Dominica – The nature isle, not to be mistaken for the Spanish-speaking island Dominican Republic, the Mountain Chicken is a creole delicacy that is locally known as crapaud (pronounced crappo).
Mountain chicken is frog legs seasoned and fried until golden brown and served as the main entree with peas and rice or plain rice – usually white rice. In 2013, according to Inside Dominica, callaloo was the preferred choice of their national dish.
DOMINICA REPUBLIC – SANCOCHO
The Spanish speaking island of the Dominican Republic pride itself on their culinary dish named “Sancocho.” Sancocho is a stew consisting of various meats (chicken, beef, etc.…) and a combination of starchy root vegetables, .i.e. yam, yucca potatoes.
GRENADA – OIL DOWN
Grenada, also called the spice island, the national dish is “Oil down.” This dish is cooked in a large pot known as a Karhee. The meal is made with breadfruit, dumplings, callaloo, and a meat of your choice (customarily salted codfish/bacalao). The ingredients are sautéed in coconut milk imbued with an abundance of herbs and spices for intense flavor.
GUADELOUPE – PORC COLOMBO
Porc Columbo is similar to “pork curry” when translated into English. It is pork seasoned with a bunch of unique herbs and spices. The emphasis being “Colombo,” which is the French Caribbean’s version of curry powder, where uncooked rice is added to the spice mixture, yielding a nutty texture.
GUYANA – PEPPERPOT
Although Guyana is located in South America, its history and vibrant culture are shared with the rest of the Caribbean; therefore, it is classified as a Caribbean country due to its culture and historical context.
Pepperpot predates the Amerindian people’s days; cassareep (the black liquid from the cassava root) plays a significant role in this stewed meat dish. The Amerindians used cassareep to preserve meat, and the practice is still incorporated in Guyanese cooking.
A choice of meat, beef, pork, and mutton is used along with a combination of herbs, spices (cinnamon, brown sugar, orange peel, etc..) with ground provisions (term used to describe root vegetables) and bread.
HAITI – GRIOT WITH RICE AND BEANS
Haiti is known as the pearl of the Caribbean (La Perle des Antilles). There are several national dishes. The main dish, Griot (fried pork bites) is the most popular dish followed by Black Rice (Rice with Djon-Djon) and Rice and Beans.
For the Griot, small to medium size cubed pieces of pork are seasoned, boiled then pan-fried, giving this mouthwatering flavor. Rice and peas (riz et pois) and green plantains are complementary to this dish.
JAMAICA – ACKEE, AND SALTFISH
Jamaica is characterized as “The land of wood and water” by the Arawak people. Ackee and saltfish are a favorite amongst the Jamaican people. Ackee bears a striking resemblance to scrambled eggs but is quite bland when unseasoned.
Once the Ackee is carefully washed off, the salt fish’s (codfish) salty extract is boiled off, together with both Ackee and Saltfish are sauteed with a mixture of herbs and spices for flavor. Bacon is a favorite addon to this dish.
The dish can be accompanied by boiled or fried dumplings, green plantains, fried plantain, breadfruit, and hard dough bread. It is usually eaten for breakfast or dinner, but many people choose to eat it at any time of day on any given day.
MARTINIQUE – GRILLED SNAPPER WITH SAUCE CHIEN
Fresh-grilled snapper is a delicacy in the Caribbean. The Martinique delicacy of Grilled snapper is served in a sauce made of chives, parsley, tomato, pepper, and other variety of spices called Sauce Chien.
MONTSERRAT – GOAT WATER
Montserrat is known as the “Emerald of the Caribbean.” The Montserrat people love their goat water; don’t be misguided by the name. Goat water is a thick, tasty stew made from goat meat. The meat is seasoned and simmered down to slow. The well-spices goat meat is cook and releases its unique flavor
The trick with goat water is in preparing the meat, meaning not to overcook, nor should you undercook it. Goat water is served with a combination of bread, ground provisions (boiled root vegetables), or rice.
PUERTO RICO – ARROZ CON GANDULES
Arroz con Gandules translates to Rice with pigeon peas, made with chorizo sausage, pork shoulder, peppers, and seasoned with a specialty sauce of sofrito. This dish is usually served as a main meal (dinner time).
ST KITTS AND NEVIS – STEWED FISH, PLANTAIN, COCONUT DUMPLING, AND BREADFRUIT
St Kitts and Nevis’s national dish is stewed salt fish, with coconut dumplings, spice-infused plantains, and seasoned breadfruit. This local blend of spices and starchy vegetables yields a perfect flavor.
ST LUCIA – SALTFISH AND GREEN FIGS
Saltfish and green figs, green plantains/bananas, are a national favorite for this Creole-speaking island. The salt fish is boiled and added to a frying pan filled with a myriad of seasonings and sauteed. The figs are simmered separately, and once cooked, added to the pot to create a dynamic and authentic Caribbean flavor.
ST MARTIN/ST MAARTEN – CALLALOO AND CONCH AND DUMPLING
St. Martin/St. Maarten is an island divided into two cultural plains; the Dutch side and the French side. Its history is quite complex. On the French side, their preferred delicacy is callaloo soup, a thick green soup made from greens with pork cubes, hot pepper, okra, black pepper, thyme, and chicken stock. The Dutch side took pride in conch (large sea snail) seasoned with herbs, spices and served with dumplings or rice and beans/peas or boiled root vegetables.
ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES – ROASTED BREADFRUIT AND JACKFISH
Known as the “Jewels of the Caribbean,” Vincentian people love their jackfish (a species of fish) cooked with breadfruit. In the Caribbean, breadfruit is usually roasted on open charcoal or firewood.
After the breadfruit is roasted, it is baked in the oven until soft. The jackfish is pre-seasoned, fried, and served along with the roasted breadfruit. It is said that Vincentian people like to wash this down with a local golden apple juice.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – CRAB AND CALLALOO
Trinidad and Tobago have a variety of favorite meals, but crab and callaloo is their particular national dish. Dasheen leaves are prepared in a unique fashion, similar to a dark leafy stew/gravy type of consistency. The summery stew is served with crab and tends to be eaten as Sunday lunch.
TURKS AND CAICOS – CONCH
Conch is a national symbol for the Turks and Caicos people. Conch fritters, conch salad, and crack conch are the most popular dishes. Cracked conch, the national dish, is conch meat that is pounded with a meat tenderizer, seasoned, dipped into a flour batter, and then fried.
VIRGIN ISLANDS – FISH AND FUNGI
Fish and Fungi is the shared national dish of the British and U.S. Virgin Islanders.
Fish and fungi (pronounced foon-ji), the Caribbean version of polenta, is often viewed as the unofficial dish of both the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and nearby Antigua and Anguilla. It dates back to Danish rule days when cornmeal and salt herring were the foundation of slaves’ rations. (https://www.winemag.com/recipe/fish-and-fungi-virgin-islands/)
What’s your favorite national Caribbean dish?
- Referenced and courtesy of http://thatgirlcookshealthy.com/so-what-are-the-caribbean-national-dishes
Updated in April 2021