Caribbean Clas­sics

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - Contents - BY DIANA PAULA PHO­TOS ALVITE

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

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