Food. We all need it to live. And after working up an appetite swimming, snorkeling and surfing all day, you'll want plenty of it. Luckily most Caribbean restaurants see fit to load up your plate, and the variety of menu items - from Spanish to Americana, from Creole to strange concoctions you've never heard of - will have something to please even the pickiest eater when traveling through the Caribbean islands.
Traditional Caribbean food takes on many forms. Since its culture is largely an amalgamation of a lot of diverse factors, Caribbean dining can be a feast of any number of signature dishes. Indigenous peoples, West African, French and Spanish cuisine all have their place on the menus here. Nearly every dish is topped off with a rich blend of spices that traditional Caribbean foods are famous for. The African dishes began as a byproduct of the slave trade – the slaves were left to fend for themselves with the foods their masters left for them, and did their best to replicate their favorite dishes from home.
But most Caribbean foods bear the most relation to the Creole traditions, mixed with the spices of the island, along with a multitude of rice dishes that have carried over from Spanish colonialism. The most famous traditional Caribbean foods include callaloo - an African soup based around crab, beef and chicken – curried goat stew, and a wide variety of fish cooked to perfection.
Another traditional favorite is the buljol - a salted codfish shredded and season with a combination of onions, tomatoes, peppers and olive oil. You'll find the buljol served in a coconut bake. When dining in the Caribbean, you can't forget the roti - a flour wrap with curried meat or vegetables.
But the main spots for dining are mainly found in the French West Indies. Nowhere will you find better traditional Caribbean foods than on St. Martin. The jewel of the French islands, St. Martin offers the finest Caribbean restaurants in the entire region. Inexpensive French wines also line the menus, a rare find for many American travelers. Martinique and St. Lucia carry on this fine tradition, though the tops chefs from these islands often travel to St. Martin to perfect their craft.
Anguilla is another outpost of wonderful Caribbean dining, where you can find lobster salad, grilled snapper, crayfish casserole and vanilla bean sauce at any of the best restaurants. You might notice that most everything on the island is seafood based, even more so than neighboring islands – the fishing industry is stronger here than anywhere else in the region. Since Anguilla actually belongs to the British, a few favorites from England have made their way across the sea, including breadfruit and curries and Indian foods.
A mainstay of Caribbean dining is jerk chicken or pork. Jerk is a unique Jamaican method of preparing large chunks of meat. The meat is marinated with a mixture of spices and peppers and traditionally cooked over a flame. You can find jerk foods all across America, but until you've eaten the genuine article you are seriously missing out. The popularity of the dish has spread from Jamaica and is now ubiquitous through the Caribbean.