Foods typically only eaten in the Caribbean are far and few between. This is due to two factors. First, most of the Caribbean cuisine is a mixture of dishes from other countries and cultures. Second is the proliferation and popularity of Caribbean restaurants found around the world, which when combined with modern transport and storage means most Caribbean foods are now served in many major cities. This does not mean there are none, just difficult to determine which ones are “typically only” eaten in the Caribbean!
Most will think of “jerk” foods, which are spicey and definitely Caribbean, but are now common in Jamaica restaurants found in New York and London. Few people realise that Caribbean Souse and Blood Puddings are originally Scotish, and still served through much of the Old Southern United States. Goat is stil common in many poorer areas of Africa and Asia. For a food to be typically “only” eaten in the Caribbean, the ingredients have to only come from here and not ship well!
One candidate would be Akee and Saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica. Akee is a rather bland fruit actually from Africa, poisonous in the wrong stages, and the Saltfish was preserved cod shipped to the Caribbean as a “poor people’s food”. The Jamaican’s mixed it with seasonings and made a culinary delight. Why has it stayed primarily in the Caribbean? Akee is from Africa, but there they use fresh fish and in most developed countries people won’t eat something labeled high in salt!
Sugar Apples, a close relative of the Cherimoya and Sour Sop, are a Caribbean fruit that is almost exclusive to the Caribbean table. It bruises rapidly, and is not visually appealing. This food seems to only grow in this Caribbean region. It is delicious, and gooey, so very popular with local children, other places use candy instead! It is a food only eaten in the Caribbean because it only grows here in small quantities, doesn’t ship well and is eaten too quickly by the children!
The Chinese, and most of the world, eat litchis’. The Caribbean equivalent is the Gynep. They are similar in texture, taste like “peach flavoured snot’ (the snot reference may be why they are not grown in other places). Occasionally Gyneps can be found in Caribbean markets in major cities, but unlike litchis storage is a problem with gyneps and so must be eaten quickly. Another Caribbean only food!
Flying Fish is a wonderful food and can be prepared several ways. The Bajans from Barbados know how to serve it best, but unfortunately they have spread around the world and now run many of those Caribbean restaurants mentioned earlier, serving Flying Fish! It is no longer “only” found in the Caribbean, but is typically served in the Caribbean.
There is “fungi” or “Kuku”, different names for the same dish, made using corn meal okra and spicy seasonings that was an “old” Caribbean food. It seems to be vanishing from the plates as okra is not popular and cornmeal is increasing in price with the production of ethanol.It was never exported as it is not visually appealing, but the elderly in the Caribbean still eat it.
There are many other foods typically eaten in the Caribbean. Rotis are considered Trinidadian, but are originally from India and the same applies to most of the curries. Goat Water is a stew similar to those found in many places in Africa, the seasoning are sometimes different. Caribbean hot sauces are shipped through out the world!
What about bananas, cassava ans sweet potatoes as unique Caribbean Cuisine? There are originally from the Caribbean, but not only found in the Caribbean any more! As stated, there is “far and few”, but the Caribbean isn’t that far, so head down and try the original Caribbean cuisine in the place it started, and is best enjoyed!