Cooking seafood is so commonplace in this world region that for many is nearly impossible to come over here on vacations and skip tasting a grilled lobster next to the sea or a filet of fresh fish out of the platform.
Two of the things that distinguish Caribbean cuisine the most are mobility and colorfulness, especially when it comes to cooking its abundant marine life. That’s why it’s nearly impossible to think of a good table without seafood in it in this neck of the woods. And that’s also why virtually each and every island replaces or renews the taste of its food, depending on the most common ingredients or cultural elements they cherish the most.
Prickled fish served with potato slices or roasted corn on some of the islands is pitted against sweetened seafood somewhere else in the region. Those are the dishes people like the most. On the other hand, fish seasoned with chili, garlic and tomato paste is ideal for cooking stronger and more fibrous species, like tuna or the celebrated shrimp.
This gastronomy counts on hundreds of years of a tradition that was, as times rolled on, enriched by the Europeans and many other migrating inflows, as well as by the opening of the international trade and the displacement of vegetables or fresh ingredients from one place to another. Right now, this is mixed cuisine, even open to experimentation or –as some people put it- fusion cuisine. Would you like to have a slice of pizza covered with freshwater fish curdled in sour orange and fried in olive oil?
As a matter of fact, the list of classics has been engrossed by a tremendous amount of dishes, so overwhelmingly plentiful and large, that the old nouvelle cuisine concept implemented by the French many years ago will never die out in this world region, a concept that served to augment the already overspill of culinary creativeness from all around the world and in which the role of seafood, mollusks, shellfish and crustaceans is splendid in many ways. Better yet, they are the stars of the gastronomic show.
In this Caribbean, this process is taking place in a natural, yet nonstop fashion. Even though it’s true that visitors may distribute their likings for certain food in any of the great travel destinations across the region –you’ll hardly ever find a restaurant exclusively serving Caribbean food or labeled as such– don’t hesitate to show up in a place where seafood is the specialty of the house.
Any suggestions? In addition to the classics –they have been genuine warranties since a long time ago– any dish with fresh catch from the platform, any combination of, say, filet of grilled dorado stuffed with shrimps and lobster threads, sprinkled with thyme and axiote sauce lying on a bed of fruit bread slices; fish rolls with coriander, swordfish dices in white sauce or tomatoes stuffed with crab meat, plus a few drops of hot chili sauce and lemon packs quite a wallop.
For centuries, the Caribbean has welcomed a diversity of cultures with open arms and that contact, that intertwining of influences, tastes and peculiarities in a region blessed with abundance of fruits, vegetables, fresh spices, meats and seafood, is today is the foundation of its imaginative, varied and vital cuisine