Caribbean food recipes are very interesting to me because they are usually a blend of European, African and Asian ingredients. Caribbean food history is intricately linked to the slave trade, and as a result, many foods were transplanted to the Caribbean Islands for the African slaves. With time, slavery was abolished, and instead, indentured servants from India and China were transported to the Caribbeans for additional labor. The end result is that many traditional Caribbean foods have influences from countries all over the world.
A typical West Indian dish may include steamed fish with rice and beans. The side dishes may include callaloo, fritters, or breadfruit. Of course the fish comes from the warm waters of the Caribbean sea. However, the rice is originally from China, the red kidney beans are from South America, the callaloo is originally from west Africa, fritters are made with flour from the Middle East, and breadfruit is originally from the Pacific Islands.
The main thing I like about traditional Cayman food is its freshness. When I have steamed fish at a local Kitchen, it has literally been caught that morning, lightly seasoned, and prepared to perfection. My husband and I were regulars at the Heritage Kitchen when we lived in West Bay. The food is delicious, but always in short supply. If you didn’t arrive just when the restaurant opened, you would likely not be able to order their fresh catch of the day. To prepare steamed fish, wash the fish in lime and then season it with salt and pepper to your taste. Heat coconut oil in a pan. Add the fish and cook it on both sides until it is golden brown. Add a sliced onion, a little water, and seasoning pepper. Cook on low heat for a few minutes until done.
Rice and Beans
Probably the first traditional Grand Cayman food I had was Rice and Beans. This is a dish that I originally tasted at one of the many local Grand Cayman restaurants and kitchens. Usually, Caribbean cooks like to play around with this dish until they make it their own creation. I’ve had it many different ways, but I think the best recipe is Rice and Beans – Cayman Style. To start, soak the beans overnight. Cook the beans until they are tender (about an hour). Drain the beans and save the bean water, it should be about 3 cups. You may need to add more water to get to 3 cups. In another pot, boil previously saved bean water, salt, black pepper, thyme, onion, and seasoning pepper. Add previously boiled beans and coconut milk and let everything come to a boil. Add the rice. Make sure there is about 1/2 inch of water over the rice and beans. When the pot starts to boil again, lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.
This is a dish that I’ve only had in my home. My adventurous husband became curious about breadfruit and asked one of his Jamaican clients how to prepare it. It turned out to be very simple. First place the whole breadfruit in the oven for about an hour. This step is necessary so that you can easily cut the fruit. At this point you can eat the fruit by itself, soak it in butter, or eat it as a side dish to a meal. Another option, is to fry it up for just a couple of minutes on top of the stove. This is what we did the the result was scrumptious. After frying, it tastes a bit like potato, but with an interesting texture.
These traditional Caribbean food recipes are delicious and easy to make. If you use all fresh ingredients, then you are assured of a tasty Caribbean meal that you can easily make in your own home. If you are here visiting the Cayman Islands, I highly recommend one of the many local restaurants and Kitchens. Each one has its own specialty that will have you going back for more.