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Barbados Food

One of the delights of visiting Barbados is that it gives you the chance to experience delicious Bajan food. And it is an experience because local food is made with a variety of ingredients, most of which will be familiar to you, but are enhanced with local herbs and spices to create a distinct Bajan flavour.

The local dish which is synonymous with Barbados is flying fish and cou cou, traditionally served on Fridays. The skillfully boned flying fish is rolled and stewed down in gravy made with herbs, tomatoes, garlic, onions and butter. Cou cou is similar to polenta, made with yellow corn meal but cooked with finely chopped okras, water and butter. Cou cou can also be made with breadfruit and green bananas and is served with salt fish or beef stew.

Another popular Bajan dish is fish cakes which are made with salted cod imported from the maritime provinces of Canada. The importation of salted fish and meat goes back to the colonial days when these foods, which could be stored for months, were seen as a cheap source of protein. Fish cakes are made with salted cod, flour, herbs and pepper and are served in rustic rum shops and elegant cocktail parties alike. As health conscious as everyone is trying to be, a dish of freshly fried hot fish cakes passed around at a gathering with some pepper sauce or sauce marie rose, goes like smoke in the wind.

A wide variety of fresh fish is available in Barbados like barracuda, king fish (wahoo), snapper, bill fish, chubb, yellow fin tuna and dolphin. Some visitors are mistakenly horrified to see dolphin on local menus not realizing that it is the fish also called mahi mahi or dorado and not any relation or similarity to the porpoise. Dolphins, the mammals, seldom seen in our waters, are revered and never caught.

The most common way to cook fish is to season it with Bajan seasoning, coat it with egg, then dust it in fine breadcrumbs and fry it in hot oil. Bajan seasoning is a blend of fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, spring onions, onions, garlic, parsley, basil and scotch bonnet pepper with spices such as clove, black pepper, paprika and salt. A popular lunch is a fish cutter which is fried flying fish or a fillet of fish sandwiched between a Bajan salt bread.

Whether a roast pork with diamonds of crackling, a baked ham, stewed down pork chops or Bajan pudding and souse, the quality of Barbadian pork is especially delicious. In keeping with this love of pork, pigs have been reared domestically in Barbados for years and are considered an important supplement to household income.

A local delicacy is black and white pudding made with sweet potato and herbs served along with soused pigs head and trotters. There are many people throughout the island that make and sell pudding and souse every Saturday, starting work at 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning in order to be ready for the lunch-time rush.

Whereas the diet of most cultures tends to focus on one staple, the starch served with a meal in Barbados varies widely; sweet potato, yam, breadfruit, eddo, green banana, bakes, cassava, rice, cou cou, pasta or potato. Rice is more often than not cooked with some kind of pulse such as pigeon peas, black eye peas or split peas. Breadfruit, a large green football sized fruit, has a similar taste and texture of a potato with a subtle difference that makes it an interesting alternative to the more pedestrian potato. It is served lathered in a tomato and onion, butter sauce or a fresh cucumber and lime souse, mashed or as crisp, wafer thin chips.

The ground provisions are made into all kinds of delicious recipes such as yam pie and candied sweet potato. Bajan sweet potatoes are starchy and quite unlike the waxy orange variety usually seen in American supermarkets. One of the most popular starches with a meal is actually macaroni and cheese, referred to simply as "pie".

Chicken usually heads up every Bajan's shopping list. On Sundays it is stuffed with a fresh herb stuffing made with the local Eclipse crackers and baked whole. It is also stewed, barbequed, stuffed with Bajan seasoning and fried, cooked with rice to make pelau, curried, boiled into a delicious soup
with vegetables and the list goes on.

A wide variety of vegetables are available in Barbados from the local markets, the most popular of which is located downtown Bridgetown and is a hive of activity on a Saturday morning. Bajans serve vegetables in a variety of ways. For example pumpkin, which is a similar to American squash, is served boiled or made into fritters sprinkled with sugar and spice. Plantain, a member of the banana family but quite unpalatable uncooked, is served fried or wrapped in bacon and baked. Okra, famous for its role in southern American gumbo, is served sprinkled with a little fresh lime juice. Asparagus is grown in Barbados and is eaten sautéed with a little butter and lime juice. Christophene, a sugarless member of the melon family, is another unusual and popular vegetable which is often served with a cheese sauce. Cucumber is dressed with lime juice, salt, onion and a little hot pepper.

Bajans have quite a sweet tooth. Local candies include guava cheese, tamarind balls, peanut brittle and chocolate fudge. The most common traditional Bajan dessert is Coconut Bread. For fancier occasions, lemon meringue pie, cheesecake, chocolate icebox pudding, good old chocolate cake and Bajan baked custard are some of the local favourites.


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