So, what is Caribbean food?
If you’ve never experienced Caribbean cooking before, you’re probably wondering what actually is Caribbean cuisine?
Well, there is SO MUCH to Caribbean cooking, it’s impossible to describe it in a sentence! From Jamaica to Trinidad and Tobago and everything in between, all the islands have their own unique dishes and cooking styles. These are all inspired by a huge mix of ethnicities and local cuisine is very much intertwined with a country’s history.
Caribbean cuisine is a world of flavour - featuring soothing rum drinks and mouth-watering hot sauces; spice rubs, fragrant marinades and cool chutneys feature in hand tossed salads, spice wood grills and slowly simmered one pots. Food is often eaten on the go from beachshacks or street vendors, who cook up fresh, homemade bites every day. Hearty curries are a big part of the cuisine, and are normally accompanied with exotic veg dishes and either rice or Indian style roti breads for mopping up. Meat is a big feature - and it's often marinated, but there are plenty of vegan or 'ital' dishes too. Fresh fish is readily available and so there are many different fish dishes, particularly on the smaller islands.
One thing's for sure, there will always be a big spread of food for family gatherings and celebrations, with everyone trying a bit of everything and no one going hungry.
With influences from the indigenous Arawaks and Caribs, as well as Africa, India and Europe, Caribbean food is packed with herbs and spices from all around the world. You’ll often find your Caribbean feast has been brought to life with ginger, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and paprika. Garlic, scallions and onions are also key ingredients, especially in the base of a delicious curry.
Where to begin? There are so many exotic and fresh ingredients that shape Caribbean food. Sweet potato, bell peppers, tomatoes are among some of the most used veg and you won’t go far without finding coconut in some form – coconut milk makes a deliciously creamy curry base. Plantain is one of our favourite ingredients – a sweet banana-like veg which is delicious fried and perfect for mopping up a curry.
If you’ve heard of one thing about Caribbean cooking, you’ve probably heard of jerk. A way of marinating and grilling meat, it’s a staple on the islands. Every 'Jerk Master' cook has his or her own mixture of seasoning and spices, but this usually includes a mix of onion, garlic, five-spice, thyme and nutmeg and scotch bonnet. It’s rubbed over chicken or other meats and then left overnight – we like to marinade our meats for 24 hours so the flavour comes all the way through. The final step is firing the meat over a grill for a delicious smoky finish - you'll often see oil drums used for this purpose in the Caribbean.
Whether it’s a marinade that packs a punch or a tangy hot pepper sauce poured over your salt fish fritters, there’s no denying you can have as much heat as you can take! Central to many recipes is the infamous Scotch Bonnet chilli – it’s pretty hot but also has a gentle sweetness so it gives a really unique flavour. It’s no drama if you’re not a fan of spice though – check out our not-spicy guide.
But of course there’s only so much you can learn without tasting it – the next step is to book a table and come and try it out!