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Flying fish and cou cou is the national dish of Barbados, traditionally eaten on Fridays but pretty much available all the time. The fish is boned and stewed in a seriously tasty gravy of herbs, tomatoes, onions, garlic and butter. What’s not to love?
It’s served with cou cou, a polenta affair made into fluffy balls with yellow corn meal and often okra. On occasion, cou cou is also made with breadfruit, a starchy and versatile island staple. It’s hearty Bajan home cooking at its best and an absolute must-try on a trip to Barbados.
Flying fish is just one feature on the Bajan seafood agenda, which is exhaustive to say the least. Barracuda, king fish, snapper, bill fish, yellow fin tuna and dolphin fish (no, not like Flipper), also known as mahi mahi or dorado.
Most of the time, it’s served lightly fried in Bajan seasoning and breadcrumbs. Simple but delicious, you can’t go wrong with seafood on an island surrounded by tropical seas.
Barbados is also a place to snack in style. There are all kinds of tasty takeaway treats on offer, such as spiced Bajan fishcakes with hot pepper sauce and conkies - corn flour mixed with coconut, spices, sugar, pumpkin, and optional raisins or cherries all wrapped up in a banana leaf.
Another favourite local grab-and-gobble is a cutter, a flying fish sandwich with Bajan salt bread, often with cheese, egg or whatever your heart desires.
Alternatively, if you just need something tiny to keep you going, pick up some bakes: teeny pancakes made with flour, salt and water.
For a heartier meal, try a pepperpot stew, with slow-cooked meats spiced with Bajan herbs and hot peppers. It’s Caribbean comfort food for the soul.
If you’re willing to take your taste buds on an adventure, try pudding and souse. The pudding is a tastier-than-it-sounds mush of smashed-up sweet potatoes blended with onions, salt and pepper before being stuffed into a pig intestine and boiled.
The souse is basically bits of pickled pig. We’re talking feet, snout, ears… you name it. Almost like tropical haggis, it’s delicious. Trust us.
If you’ve got a sweet-tooth, Barbados has some interesting stuff in store.
Guava cheese - which has nothing to do with cheese - is a jelly-like tangy treat that guarantees an instant sugar-rush, while Bajan black cake is a Christmas Figgy Pudding adapted to the Caribbean. In other words, it involves rum. Heaps and heaps of rum.
Another local favourite is cassava pone, an interesting traditional dessert with a gummy texture, made with cassava flour.