For years, the Caribbean's beautiful landscapes and warm climate have attracted visitors from different regions of the world. And being in a tropical zone, there is an abundance of flavours and colours in the plants, fruits, vegetables, and animals. Mix the natural diversity with the cultural diversity that came from colonization and immigration, and the result is a cuisine that is simple but remarkable.
Located in Central America, the Caribbean is a group of islands including the famous Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and The Bahamas. However, some mainland countries - such as Guyana, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador - share so much culturally that are often considered to be part of Caribbean. But don't be fooled by the similarities.
Climate, migration movements, and religion helped shape each country's culinary identity. Rice, plantains, beans, cilantro, bell pepper, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes, and coconut are a few of the ingredients common to all the islands, regionally used in the most diverse ways. The result? A fascinating range of flavours and aromas. Here are some highlights.
Ackee and Saltfish
The Jamaican Jerk might be a staple worldwide, but their national dish is Ackee and Saltfish. Ackee became Jamaica's national fruit after it arrived from West Africa in the 1700s. Once it's cooked, it looks like scrambled eggs, but its taste is singular. Imagine a heart of palm, with touches of lychee, fresh bean texture, and a slightly bitter finishing. Sounds odd, but in combination with codfish, - or saltfish, which in the past was the cheapest protein available in the island - onions, scallions, thyme, potatoes, and peppers, make a memorable dish.
Ackee and Saltfish recipe from the Food Network
Congri and Morors
Is hard not to think of The Cuban Sandwich, when speaking of Cuban cuisine. But at a Cuban house or restaurant, you likely will find Congri or Morors - rice and black beans cooked together. It can be eaten on its own or served with chicken, pork, or beef as a side.
Cuban Sandwich recipe from Food Network and Congri/Morors recipe by The Hungry Cuban
Montserrat's Goat Water tastes better than it sounds. This hearty stew, made with fresh goat meat and breadfruit, it becomes remarkable by how the spices - cloves, mace, and accent - play together.
Goat Water recipe from Montserrat's official website
Amaranth and water spinach can be used to prepare the Callaloo, but in Trinidad and Tobago, where it's the national dish, they use taro. The idea remains the same, a stew made with leafy greens and okra. A healthy side that with a few tweaks becomes an entree that often includes crab meat.
Callaloo recipe from The Spruce Eats
What's for dessert? Black cake, of course. The recipe changes from one island to another, which leads to change in texture and flavour. However, the result has one thing in common: it's always delicious. The dense fruitcake made of dried fruit will remind you of its festive origin. It was served traditionally at Christmas, weddings, and other celebrations.
Black Cake recipe from African Bites
While flying to the Caribbean is not always an option, food can do the job just as well. Cooking with Cool Runnings' spices and sauces will bring you the bright, bold, and vibrant flavours and aromas from the islands. You can feel the warmth and the cool ocean breeze right at home.