Caribbean Food A Little History

The Arawak, Carib, and Taino Indians were the first inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. These first inhabitants occupied the present day islands of British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Trinidad, and Jamaica. Their daily diet consisted of vegetables and fruits such as papaw, yams, guavas, and cassava. The Taino started the process of cooking meat and fish in large clay pots.

The Arawaks are the first people known to make a grate of thin green wood strips on which they slowly cooked meat, allowing it to be enhanced by the flavor of the wood. This grate was called a barbacoa, and the word we know today as barbeque is taken from this early Indian cooking method.

The Carib Indians added more spice to their food with hot pepper sauces, and also added lemon and lime juice to their meat and fish recipes. The Caribs are said to have made the first pepper pot stew. No recipes exist since every time the Indians made the dish, they would always add new ingredients. The Carib had a big impact on early Caribbean history, and the Caribbean sea was named after this tribe.

Then the Caribbean became a crossroads for the world . . .

Once the Europeans brought Africans slaves into the region, the slaves diet consisted mostly of food the slave owners did not want to eat. So the slaves had to be inventive, and they blended their traditional African foods with staples found on the islands. The Africans introduced okra, callaloo, fish cakes, saltfish, ackee, pudding and souse, mangos, and the list goes on.

Most present day Caribbean island locals eat a present diet that is reflective of the main ingredients of original early African dishes, and includes cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, bananas and corn meal.

African men were hunters in their homeland, and often away from home for long periods of time. They would cook spicy pork over hot coals, and this tradition was refined by the early slaves in Jamaica. The technique is known today as “jerk” cooking , and the secret involves a slow meat cooking process. Jamaica is famous for jerk chicken and pork, and you’ll find jerk all over the island.

After slavery was abolished, the Europeans went to India and China for labor, and more cooking styles were introduced. Much of the Indian cooking culture remains alive and well in the Caribbean of today with the introduction of curried meats and curry powder. Indians call it kari podi, and we have come to know this pungent flavor as curry.

The Chinese introduced rice, which is always a staple in home cooked island meals. The Chinese also introduced mustard, and the early Portuguese sailors introduced the popular codfish.

Most visitors to the Caribbean have no idea that the fruit trees and fruits so familiar to the islands were introduced by the early Spanish explorers. The fruit trees and fruits brought from Spain include orange, lime, ginger, plantains, figs, date palms, sugar cane, grapes, tamarinds and coconuts.

Even the Polynesian islands play an important role in Caribbean cooking. Most of us remember the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty”, but do not know that particular ship carried breadfruit, which was loaded on board from the islands of Tahiti and Timor. In the movie the crew took over the ship, forced the captain into a small boat to fend on his own, and they threw the breadfruit, which they considered “strange fruit” overboard. Another ship was more successful in bringing breadfruit from Polynesia to Jamaica and the St Vincent and the Grenadines. Breadfruit is a staple diet in the current day Caribbean

America is responsible for introducing beans, corn, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and chili pepper to the Caribbean. In fact these particular foods had never been seen in Asia, Europe or Africa, so America actually introduced these foods the rest of the world via the Caribbean.

So it’s no wonder Caribbean cooking is so rich and creative with the flavors of Africa, India, and China, along with Spanish, Danish, Portuguese, French and British influences. Food served in the Caribbean islands have been influenced by the cultures of the world, but each island adds its own special flavor and cooking technique.

In the Mood For Latin & Caribbean Food?

If you are in the mood for something a little different for dinner, a Latin & Caribbean restaurant in Los Angeles will provide you with some exotic treats that must be experienced at least once in your lifetime. Los Angeles residents are fortunate to have so many restaurants in their backyard to sample and enjoy. You can literally have a different type of cuisine every day of the week and enjoy all of them thoroughly when you live in this wonderfully diverse part of the country.

Entertaining guests is a good chance to try out some Latin & Caribbean food or introduce a friend to this type of food. You can often find a good listing of restaurants in the local Los Angeles area by searching for restaurant guides online. You will find a listing of the available locations and in some cases a peek at the menu. This will give you the best opportunity to find a restaurant that you may have never tried before.

It’s always a good idea to try new foods and step outside of your comfort zone to find delectable treats that might just become your favorite new foods. Sampling the foods of other cultures is also a wonderful way to become familiar with various parts of the world. If you are planning a trip to a Latin American or Caribbean country, trying out some of the food in your local Los Angeles restaurants can show you what you might expect on your holiday.

It might be helpful to read a few reviews of the local restaurants so that you can find one that meets your expectations. Read online reviews with a grain of salt. Just because someone had a bad experience in a restaurant does not mean that you will find the same problems. It could be that the restaurant had a bad night or that the person reviewing the restaurant is difficult to please. Of course, if you see frequent poor reviews, you might reconsider the Latin & Caribbean restaurant and choose another.

Frequent a few of the Latin & Caribbean restaurants in the area to find the one that you prefer. Some of these restaurants will be a formal or fine dining experience while others have a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Have a little fun with your research. It’s the best way to find your favorite restaurants. You might end up in places that you don’t care for once in a while, but you will also discover a few gems that will quickly become the place you go when you are in the mood for Latin & Caribbean food.

Frequenting the local restaurants in the Los Angeles area is a fun hobby to become involved with for the whole family. If you love good food and a pleasant atmosphere, this is right up your alley. You work hard for your money and when you head out to a restaurant, you want one that will give you consistent good food and great service.

Caribbean Food Safari

Alongside the coasts of Caribbean islands, there are hundreds of fine-dining restaurants and food choices that make a great meal for your lunch or dinner. You’ll be truly elated to explore and enjoy the exceptional tang of some of the international food items here. These are cooked and served with a Caribbean tinge in some of the finest restaurants in the region. The islands, like Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Barbados, St. Lucia, Bahamas, etc. are those that offer extraordinary dining options.

The people in the Caribbean region have a great passion for eating as well as cooking. Every island of the Caribbean group has something exclusive to serve in its food that catches the attention of tourists from all around the world. The most common ingredients that are used in the dishes include rice, beans, plantains, cassava, bell peppers, cilantro, chick peas, sweet potatoes, coconut, tomatoes and the locally available meat (beef, pork, poultry, or fish) and curries. The food recipes that make you really fall in love with the Caribbean food include Jamaican grilled fish, jerk chicken with rice and curries, black beans and rice, slow-roasted pork shoulder, oxtail stew, sweet plantains and many other delectable food items to carry you away.

Most of the recipes, especially those of dessert dishes have a mixed origin. The black cake is very popular here being a derivative of English Christmas pudding. The national dish of Antigua and Barbuda is fungie and pepper pot. The Jamaican cuisine is a mixture of various spices, flavors, techniques and diverse cultures reflecting in it. It has an influence of African, British, Indian, Chinese, French cuisine. Food in Puerto Rico has its roots in traditional cooking practices that are deeply influenced by the food traditions of Hispanic races, European, and American-Indian ethnic groups.

To enjoy the eating delights of the Caribbean islands you can choose any of the various tourist destinations here, and spend these holidays pampering your foodie belly with some of the most scrumptious victuals. If you are a connoisseur of food there are some unparalleled holiday resorts and hotels that take special care for your palate. Some of the prominent and stylish restaurants, with elegant bistros and ritzy eateries that you’ll find in those islands are Banana Walk and La Bella Vita at the Sunset Beach Resort, Grand Palladium’s The Blue Lagoon and Mo’ Bay Restaurant, which are there in Jamaican islands. You’ll get the excellent dining experience at Sir Alexander restaurant, a part of Riu Palace Paradise Island, and all-inclusive resort in Bahamas. In Puerto Rico, the best restaurants include Blt Steak and Meres at Ritz Carlton, San Juan.

Traditions Brought From Various Homelands

Caribbean Food

Caribbean food is basically a fusion of African, Amerindian, French, Indian, and Spanish cuisine – traditions brought from the many homelands of these islands inhabitants. In addition, the population has cooked-up from this vast wealth of culture many styles and recipes that are unique to the Caribbean region.

Seafood is one of the most common Caribbean food types in the islands, though this is certainly due in part to their location. Each island will likely have its own special cuisine. Some prepare lobster, while others prefer certain types of fish. For example, the island of Barbados is known for its “flying fish.”

Increasingly common dish on the area are seasoned meats, commonly chicken. With unique, spicy flavor, reminiscent of Louisiana Creole cuisine – curry goat and chicken are eaten throughout the Anglophone Caribbean islands, penetrating much further into the Caribbean than have the Indians who introduced them to the region over 150 years ago. Haitian cuisine, similar in its own right with the rest of the Caribbean, often employs fried goat meat along with chicken and duck.

Rice is a prime food eaten with various sauces and beans, but you’ll find the rice on each island may be a little different–on some seasons, peas are added, on some, some other touches–like coconut. Sometimes the rice is yellow, but other times it is part of a dish. Though it comes in many forms, it is a common Caribbean food throughout the region.

The Caribbean Goat Water stew is the national dish of Montserrat and is also one of the signature dishes of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is a tomato-based stew, made with goat meat, breadfruit, green pawpaw (papaya), and dumplings (also known as “droppers”). Another popular dish in the is called “Cook-up”, or Pelau, which combines chicken, pig tail, saltfish and vegetables with rice and pigeon peas. Callaloo is a soup-like dish containing leafy vegetables and okra amongst others, widely distributed in the Caribbean, with a distinctively mixed African and indigenous character.

Ginger beer is also common throughout the Caribbean Islands. It’s a drink, flavored primarily with ginger, lemon and sugar. Ginger beer may be mixed with beer (usually a British ale of some sort) to make one type of shandy, and with Gosling’s Black Seal rum to make a drink, originally from Bermuda, called a Dark ‘N’ Stormy. The soda version of ginger beer is the main ingredient in the Moscow Mule cocktail. Until today, the beverage is still brewed manually, though there are some that produce them industrially already. Such industrially made ginger beer is carbonated with pressurized carbon dioxide, does not contain alcohol, and is sold as a soft drink.

Roti, a round flat unleavened breads which traces its roots from India, features prominently in the diet of many Caribbean countries, especially Trinidad and Tobago. West Indian roti are primarily made from wheat flour, salt, and water. They are cooked on a tava. Certain rotis are also made with butter. There are several types of roti made in the West Indies including Sada Roti (the most popular breakfast option in Trinidad), Paratha Roti (made with butter and crisp outside) and Dalpuri (with a stuffing of ground yellow split peas, cumin, garlic, and pepper).