Recipes by Ethnicity: African Recipes
Costa Rican Recipes
Middle Eastern Recipes
United States Recipes
Arroz Con Pollo (
Chicken with Rice )
The earliest inhabitants of the Caribbean islands were the three Indian tribes of Arawak, Carib, and Taino. Their daily food comprised of vegetables and fruits. It was the Taino tribe that first started cooking meat and fish, using large clay vessels for this purpose.
The Arawaks took a different way and used thin strips of green wood to cook meat more slowly and allowing it to absorb the flavor of the wood. The wooden grate they used was called barbacoa and now you know where the term barbeque comes from.
Not to be left behind, the Carib tribe made their fish and meat recipes really spicy by adding pepper sauces, lime, and lemons. In fact, the Caribs are credited with having cooked the first pepper pot stew.
The last of the above three has had a tremendous impact on Caribbean food, which should not be surprising because the Caribbean Sea was named after this tribe. In the present day, Caribbean food is still a representative of the food that was originally eaten by the early inhabitants and includes okra, fish cakes, callaloo, ackee, salt fish, pudding, souse, cassava, yams, sweet potatoes, plantains, and mangoes. The concept of "jerk" cooking has also originated in the Caribbean when early African hunters would often leave their homes to go on long hunts and take with them pork cooked in a very spicy recipe over hot coals.
Rice was introduced to the Caribbean by the Chinese and is now a staple. The Chinese also unleashed mustard on the islanders while the Portuguese sailors did the codfish. Most of the fruit trees that are familiar to the visitors to the island were actually brought here by the Spain and include orange, ginger, lime, figs, plantains, sugar cane, tamarinds, grapes, and coconuts. America brought with it the various beans, squash, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and chili pepper to the island. In fact, some of these food spread to the rest of world through the Caribbean, before which, they were unknown.
An island's colonial heritage can certainly have an effect on its style of cuisine; in the French West Indies, for example, you're likely to encounter both classic and modern French cuisine as well as fine wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. But you can also find regional favorites with a local twist: a rum specialty or a tropical fruit dessert, for instance, may be featured alongside traditional "old world" items. Chefs in the Caribbean will often infuse old world cuisine with local specialties and Creole flair.
Some words of caution: Be prepared to dine at a leisurely pace in the Caribbean. The easygoing lifestyle of the islands carries over to dining, which will give you time to savor the authentic cuisine. Many Caribbean foodstuffs are enhanced with local chilies and other exotic ingredients, which your palate may or may not be accustomed to. If you overindulge, the best way to "put out the fire" is simple bread and butter.