Who doesn’t like to enjoy a good meal when they travel? We all do. In fact, the foodie experience is even more pleasurable when your taste buds are awakened with unexpected combinations of seasonings and spices, and when your senses of sight, sound, and smell are dazzled by new surroundings. That’s why I like to explore the food scene when I travel, and I especially enjoy meals in local, laid-back eateries. Maybe you do, too.
Well, epicureans, gastromes, gourmands and foodies of the world feel free to unite and thank me now because I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Caribbean meals for your sampling pleasure. They are listed below in no particular order.
Goat water soup
Country: Nevis, the sister island to St. Kitts
Description: Their version of goat water is a thick, full-bodied soup filled with carrots, small dumplings and root vegetables. As the name suggests, the main protein is goat meat. In other islands, the soup has a more broth-like consistency and it is consumed as an appetizer; not the main course.
Great place to try it: Bananas Bistro, Upper Hamilton Estate
Country: The Bahamas
Description: Conch is a popular menu item in many islands, and you can have it prepared in several ways, but there’s just something extra special about Bahamian conch. Maybe it’s because I lived in Nassau for two years, or the fact that their home cooks and master chefs just have that je ne sais quoi to how they add diced peppers, onions and tomatoes and lemon juice over the mixture to cure the uncooked meat, like in a ceviche.
Great place to try it: Joe’s Conch Shack, Bimini
Ackee and Corned Pork
Description: Ackee is a fruit that is one half of the national dish of my home country, Jamaica. Usually it is served with sautéed salt fish (cod) but on occasion it is paired with other proteins like sausages and corned pork. When cooked, at a glance it looks like scrambled eggs, but it has a much creamier texture.
If you assumed that’s a biased opinion because I’m a native, you would be wrong. In 2011, ackee and salt fish was listed on National Geographic’s roundup of top national dishes around the world.
Great place to try it: M-10 Bar and Grill in Vineyard Town, Kingston
Bake and Shark
Country: Trinidad and Tobago
Description: Quite arguably the most famous beach food in Trinidad, this fish sandwich starts out as a simple combination of fried pieces of shark meat served within a bun. It ramps up to noteworthy finger-licking proportions once you add the choose-as-you-go accompaniments. Food patrons have a choice of toppings and sauces that range from the mundane mustard and ketchup regulars to the more exotic tongue pleasers like mango chutney, tamarind and Shado Beni (similar to cilantro).
Great place to try it: Richard’s Bake and Shark, Maracas B
Oxtail with peas and rice
Country: Cayman Islands
Description: Any non-Caribbean person out there reading this: yes, you read that right. The main ingredient in this dish is the tail of an ox! The meat is first tenderized in a pressure cooker and then slow cooked to gelatinous perfection with fresh thyme, onions and other spices. Most places add butter beans to the mixture and serve it with kidney beans and rice, cooked with coconut milk for additional flavor.
Great place to try it: Welly’s Cool Spot, Georgetown
Mmmnnn. ARE YOU HUNGRY YET? I am.