Tropical Sun

A Behind the Scenes Look at Caribbean Cuisine

Posted: 02 June 2010

Callaloo

The key ingredients to your adventure

Have you recently had a chance to try Jerk BBQ chicken pasta or coconut shrimp? Have these new & exciting flavours made you curious about Caribbean cuisine? Whether you just returned from a Caribbean holiday or happened to stop at the new Caribbean restaurant in town, the doors have just opened for you to set out on a culinary adventure.

Caribbean food is distinctive and dramatic and this is in most part because of the way the cultures of the world have come together in the Caribbean islands to produce some remarkable recipes. An understanding of Caribbean cuisine goes hand-in-hand with understanding Caribbean history. In the early days there were the Carib and Arawak Indians. They had a diet that primarily consisted of the natural bounty of the islands such as the yams, papaw and guavas.

Then the Taino Indians are said to have started the process of cooking in large earthen pots. Sometime in the early period, the Arawaks started the habit of cooking meat in thin green wooden strips where the flavour of the meat was enhanced by the charring of the wood – from this we have today’s BBQ traditions.

The African slaves who were brought to work in the plantations by the Spanish, Dutch and British brought new dishes and original ways of preparing them. However, these slaves also had to be imaginative and inventive as they did not have the luxury of choice vegetables and fruits. Fish cakes, cassava, okra and callaloo became a part of island cuisine at this time. The jerk stations that are found in many parts of the Caribbean are a progression of the African way of treating and cooking meat over a slow fire. The Indians and Chinese who came later also contributed to Caribbean cuisine with their curry powder, rotis (+ doubles) and their sauces. 

The imaginative use of local ingredients such as coconut and guava along with exotic imports such as oranges and ginger has made for some spectacular recipes (yes these were considered exotic to the local islanders!).Caribbean cuisine is partly about food and partly a way of life: it is cuisine that celebrates the elaborate relationship of food to life – whether it is a wedding party, nine nights (a Caribbean funeral tradition), a family dinner or a quiet meal for two, food is to be savoured. This comes through in the way Caribbean food is produced - in its unhurried manner with almost trivial attention to detail. We at Tropical Sun follow this Caribbean tradition of attention to detail and relaxed vibes.