Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Antiguan Food 101 (Part 1)

I often get asked, "What is Antiguan food like?" I can only speak about Antigua because that's the island that I know best, but the short and simple answer is that it's a little complicated.

I also can't say that there are too many things that are completely and totally Antiguan. Due to proximity to other islands and immigration, Antiguans eat many of the same dishes that people in other English-speaking Caribbean islands do. Often you'll have dishes that are eaten on a different island, but there are small variations to the recipe; OR, even more confusing, they just have different names. For example, what some in Barbados call cou cou (or sometimes spelled coo coo), a boiled cornmeal dish that is a personal favorite of mine, Antiguans call fungee (pronounced fuhn-jee). Saying that there is a distinct Antiguan cuisine can be a little tricky.

My Mom's fungee (the big yellow ball) with spinach, eggplant, okra and saltfish (more on that below)

After walking around Nelson's Dockyard, Husband J, Cousin C and I were super hungry. Cousin C had mentioned that he knew the proprietor of a roadside food stall we'd passed. I was ready to have my first Antiguan food since I'd arrived. A big shout and thank you to Miss Brenda!

Miss Brenda's stall

When I saw the menu, I marveled at how extensive it was. Miss Brenda was offering all of Antigua's greatest hits on one menu.

Starting reading the menu with me from the top, and I'll describe some things for you.

Macaroni pie - That's essentially baked macaroni and cheese. I have to admit it was new for me to hear it described that way. We just called it macaroni and cheese growing up.

Here's my Mom's mac and cheese from last year's Thanksgiving:

Rice and peas - I think I've mentioned before that I barely ever ate plain, white rice growing up. There was always some type of bean or peas, as we'd called them, thrown into the mix. Usually the beans were red kidney beans or pigeon peas (aka gandules). I don't make rice and peas as much as I should now. I am bad at making rice. :( **hanging head in shame and handing over my Caribbean Person Card for repossession**

Pepper Pot is a stew that is found in other parts of the Caribbean (Anguilla and Guyana come to mind). I can say that it's a hodgpodge of ingredients like spinach, okra, bits of beef, callaloo leaves, pork, eggplant and others elements. I haven't had pepper pot in years. Mom? :)

Here's some pepperpot stewing.

Pepper pot and fungee are actually the national dish of Antigua. That's funny to me since I've never had these both together. :)

My lunch for the day was ducuna and ling fish with veggies.
Ducuna, ling fish,eggplant, boiled green banana (we don't fry these), boiled ripe plantain

If you'd like to hear me describe my lunch, check out this video. For some reason I'm having problems embedding video right now. :(

The sweetness of the ducuna (which is made of grated sweet potato, sugar, coconut, spice with optional raisins) is a really great counterpoint to the saltiness of the fish. Salted fish, which is often cod or sometimes pollock, is a fairly common part of meals. You may have heard it referred to as bacalao as well. Hearing about ling fish was new to me. It's in the same family as cod but just fleshier and thicker. It's often eaten with fungee or with a mix of veggies like eggplant and spinach with bread. The latter is considered a traditional Antiguan Sunday morning breakfast. Ducuna is not exclusive to Antigua either. I believe that this is native to at least St. Kitts and Anguilla and a few other islands.

Husband J likes much of the Antiguan food that he's tried, but I wasn't sure if he was ready for some of these dishes. :) I ordered him some stewed lamb with sides.

Again, not uniquely Antiguan but fairly common. Caribbean stews like this one are made by marinating the protein in onion, garlic, occasionally tomatoes and other spices. It's lightly fried, stock is added and then simmered. Good stuff.

So there is a brief introduction to Antiguan food, and there is more to come.

Notice how Miss Brenda doesn't give small portions. I think it helped that Cousin C knows her grandson and son-in-law well. :)


lavenderpug said...

ooh, the pepper pot looks really tasty!

Oneika said...

I LOVE salt fish and boiled green banana. Also I love callaloo that is mixed with salt fish. Do you do that in Antigua as well?

Anonymous said...

Best food stall out English Harbour!!! =)


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