Top 10 Most Bizarre Foods Consumed in the Caribbean
While countries in the Caribbean might not share many aspects of their culture, what they do share is their fondness for what can only be described as exotic cuisine. From the Grand Bahama Island of the Bahamas, right off the Florida coast, to the island of Trinidad, located at the mouth of the Orinoco River, the second longest river in South America; the Caribbean’s topology lends itself to the locals trying new cooking methods for whatever they can grow or catch (Fun Fact: It is believed that word “barbecue” is a derivative of the word “barabicu”, which can be found in the language of the Taino people, the original settlers in the Caribbean).
This could explain not only the range of meats used in a particular meal, but the use of the entire animal for the differing mealtimes, and over several days. This is because generally, Caribbean natives have a disdain for food wastage, which is probably a holdover from slavery where one had to “make do” with whatever was given to them. This list will also show the influence of the Spanish, with their love of seasonings, especially hot peppers and vinegar, the British who brought their sweet and savoury puddings to the Caribbean basin, and the immigrants from Asia who introduced spices, with curry powder being the most popular.
Without further ado here is our list of bizarre foods that are enjoyed on a regular basis in the Caribbean, feel free to comment or better yet, add to the discussion with recipes or foods that you think might be missing from the overall list and don’t forget to share the Caribbean with others.
1. Pacro water or Pacro tea – Trinidad
There is an aphrodisiac called Pacro water or Pacro tea. This is made with a mollusk originally known as chiton that clenches on to underwater rocks in the roughest or deepest parts of Caribbean Sea. To harvest them most of the time requires diving and digging them with a special blunt knife. They are then rinsed and boiled with seasoning spices and pepper then drunk. For a more potent brew, Parco is boiled then combined with locally picked isinglass or sea moss. When you boil it you can add your own flavor and some men even add milk, oats, raw nuts or anything they think will ‘strengthen their back’. Mainly eaten in Trinidad & Tobago
2. Souse – Grenada
Souse is a term used in the Eastern Caribbean for pickled meat. Souse can be made from the following options:
- Chicken feet
Pig snout or nose
These meats are boiled until soft and gelatinous then placed in clear water with lime juice, pepper, onions, chives, celery, cucumbers and salt. It is then served after they soak for a few hours. There is also turtle meat which when pickled, is also boiled in soup or boiled and blended with milk and spices, like nutmeg. Eaten primarily in the Eastern Caribbean.
3. Wild Meat – Trinidad & Tobago
Because of the landscape of Trinidad, there is a considerable amount of unique fauna, by Caribbean standards, on the island such as Red Howler monkey and the anteater. Due this abundance, the acquisition and consumption of these animals has become quite the delicacy with the local term of this type of food being the encompassing wild meat. Wild meat includes but is not limited to:
- Armadillo/ Tattoo (local name)
A yellow and black lizard called Salipainter in Tobago and called Matt in Trinidad
Manicoo, which looks like a big rat but closer to an opossum
Matapal or anteater
Lapp is a favorite also. Its real name is Capybara and is the largest rodent on the island
Red Howler Monkey, however this is a protected species
Wild hog or Quenk (Local name)
Turtle, but not the leather back nor the green back
Cocrico, Tobago’s national bird. Hunting them is widely encouraged as they are considered pests.
All the above meats are prepared by stewing, currying or curry stewing with coconut milk.
4. Black Pudding – Eastern Caribbean
Black Pudding, which is a blood sausage is another meal that is popular in the Eastern Caribbean. It is made from pig’s blood with select herbs and seasonings.
5. Cow’s Foot – Jamaica
It is said that in the 1700’s, the upper class would take the best parts of the cow when it’s killed and leave the so called “fifth quarters” (head, feet, tail, internal organs, and skin) for the hired hands and slaves. These workers took these unwanted parts and created meals that are enjoyed by Jamaicans today. Cow foot, one of the “fifth quarters” parts, is normally stewed with butter beans and an assortment of seasonings which normally includes escallions and thyme.
6. Oxtail – Jamaica
Another member of the “fifth quarters” Oxtail, despite the name, doesn’t necessarily has to come from an ox, it can be acquired from any type of cattle. A common favourite in Jamaican restaurants worldwide because of its delectable taste, Oxtail is prepared in a stew and is known for taking quite a while to cook properly, but please don’t mind the wait.
7. Cow’s Stomach – Jamaica
The cow’s stomach can be a rich source of protein, a fact which I am sure many only stumbled upon after centuries of devouring this tender morsel. For the main reason that it became such a popular dish among the populace was because it is really tasty. Tripe is the term used to describe the edible portion of a cow’s stomach and once stewed or curried and combined with beans (commonly butter beans) is one of those dishes that is synonymous with Jamaican cuisine.
8. Cow Skin – Jamaica
The last member of the “fifth quarters”, the Cow skin once properly removed by butchers can be prepared in either a stew or soup. It is important to get the skin directly from the butcher, as it is important that all traces of fur has to be removed for skin to be ready to be roasted and cooked. This is another meal that has been traditionally linked with male virility, but despite that, is enjoyed fairly regularly by both sexes of all ages.
9. Goat’s Head (Mannish Water) – Jamaica
Mannish water as the name suggests is reputed to be an aphrodisiac with popular Jamaican songs created such as Pluto Shervington’s “Ram Goat Liver” to boast about the broth’s potency. It is prepared using parts of a goat, but mainly the head and the heart. It is also quite a regular affair at ninth-nights (wakes) for the dead across the island. A tasty treat that won’t disappoint your palate.
10. Chicken Foot Soup – Jamaica
As one of the island’s most popular meals, Chicken foot soup is a staple for those days when most Jamaicans are not planning to cook a heavy meal. This day normally falls on a Saturday as most Jamaican homes have their large meal spread prepared on a Sunday, a noted family day. It is quite an easy, and filling, meal and can be made from scratch or from packets available in certain Jamaican groceries.