As Caribbean restaurants are becoming more common in different communities, it may pique your interest to learn about the culture through food. Although there are a wide array of Caribbean dishes, there are a few you should try on your first visit.
Goat can be an uncommon protein in many areas, but it is frequently used in the Caribbean. If you want traditional food, it is best to venture away from chicken or other proteins and try goat. Many cultures have a form of curry that is unique to the country. Curry in the Caribbean is distinctly savory. Of course, all curries begin with curry powder or a unique curry blend, and it may include coconut milk for flavor and as a thickening agent. The best way to cook curry goat is low and slow. This allows the meat to become fall-off-the-bone tender and absorb the seasoning. Once the goat reaches its optimum tenderness vegetables are added, such as onion, potatoes, scotch bonnet peppers, and carrots. Curry goat is either served with seasoned rice or rice and peas (beans).
Plantains are a traditional side item in the Caribbean. If you are unsure what plantains are, they have some similarities to bananas. Many people consider them the opposite of bananas. Whereas bananas are mostly sweet and less starchy, plantains are more starchy and less sweet. Unlike bananas you can't eat them in their raw state, they're too firm and would not taste good. Plantains are often cooked twice. Cooking them brings out their sweetness. Some people cut them horizontally, into small discs, or they may be sliced length-wise using a mandolin. They are often fried in a pan, then smashed and fried again. Frying not only cooks the plantain, but it can lead to a caramelized exterior, which enhances the flavor.
Jerk chicken is another Caribbean favorite because of its spiciness and complex flavor. There is no standardized spice mix, but it usually includes scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, and five-spice, among other herbs and spices. Once the seasoning is completed, the chicken is marinated, preferably overnight for maximum flavor. Jerk chicken is usually made with the dark meat since these parts have more flavor and are less prone to dryness during cooking. The best way to make jerk chicken is to cook it over a charcoal grill for an extra, smoky flavor. For some restaurants, it may be more convenient to bake the chicken in the oven or cook it in a cast-iron pan on the stovetop.
Curry goat, plantains, and jerk chicken are among the most authentic foods Caribbean restaurants have to offer. Trying cuisine that might be unfamiliar to you is a good way to experience the culture and keep food interesting. To learn more about food options, contact local Caribbean restaurants.