Caribbean cuisine is a combination of African, Amerindian, British, Spanish, French, Dutch and Indian. The Caribbean can be divided into 5 regions, Cuban, Jamaican, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Trinidad and Tobago. Caribbean diet is distinctive around the world, and conjures up images of intense, flavoursome food.
The Caribbean is a vast and diverse group of islands, with hundreds of local diets, but for the purposes of this brief guide we have divided the area into five regions:
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavour. A small, but noticeable, Chinese influence can also be recognised in Cuban food, mainly in the Havana area.
- Empanadas, common in Cuban meals, are pastry shell turnovers made by folding dough over and filling and sealing it. In Latin Caribbean cooking, empanadas are stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings and then baked or fried.
- The croquette or croquet is a parcel of food containing minced meat, shellfish, mashed potatoes, or vegetables, encased in breadcrumbs, shaped into a cylinder, and then deep-fried.
Jamaican Cuisine includes a variety of cooking techniques, flavours, spices and influences from each of the many waves of immigration to the island. Today, dishes which appear on nearly every Jamaican menu include curry goat, fried dumplings, and ackee and salt fish (the national dish of Jamaica). Fried plantain, jerk seasoned meat with a spicy and unique flavour; steamed cabbage and rice and peas, made from pigeon peas or kidney beans are all common alternative dishes.
- Ackee and salt fish (cod) is a traditional Jamaican dish, often considered to be Jamaica's national dish. To create this dish, salt cod is sautéed with boiled ackee, onions, scotch peppers, tomatoes, and herbs such as black pepper and pimento. It may be garnished with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes.
The cuisine of Puerto Rico has its roots in the diets of Spain and the Amerindian Taínos. The Puerto Rican diet is also influenced by the culinary traditions of the rest of the United States, Mexico, and African countries like Ethiopia. Puerto Rican dishes are well seasoned with combinations of many flavoursome spices.
- Arroz con Gandules, is a rice and pigeon-pea dish. Flavoured with annatto oil, olives, capers, smocked ham, sofrito, cumin, bay leaves, stock or broth and slowly cooked with a plantain or banana leaf on top.
St. Kitts cuisine is rich in fresh produce, including meats, vegetables and fruits to give a variety of vibrant flavour to the food. The diet on St. Kitts is less well known and internationally exported than the diet on Jamaica, but visitors to the islands have no less of a culinary experience. Because of the rich soil and fertile land in St. Kitts, the island produces some of the richest and most flavour-packed fruit and vegetables found in the Caribbean.
However, because the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are relatively small, much of the food on St. Kitts is imported. Fresh vegetables, meat and seafood are almost guaranteed on St. Kitts, despite the high level of imported food.
Dishes found in Trinidad and Tobago make use of ingredients such as coconut, cassava, sweet potatoes, plantain, fish and meat.
- Roti bread is a popular food originating from East India. It is traditionally eaten with curried meat and vegetables. Spanish pastelles are meat filled corn pastries cooked in banana leaves. Chinese food also has a very popular influence on the dietary customs of the region.
- Buljol, is Salted codfish shredded and seasoned with peppers, onions, tomatoes, and olive oil, often served in coconut bake.
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