The Caribbean is known for its beautiful cluster of islands, white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, balmy weather and lively culture.
It's also known for its unique cuisine. While there are plenty of fine-dining restaurants if you're staying at an all-inclusive resort, the local street food is an often overlooked aspect of many of the islands.
Caribbean street food is your go-to whenever you want something quick, delicious and inexpensive. Sampling this food should be part of your vacation plans as it’s one way of experiencing some authentic culture.
You've probably heard about jerk, for example. It's the delicious cooking style that involves marinating or dry-rubbing meat with a hot spice mixture. Well, jerk was born in Jamaica and is a staple of Jamaica’s street food markets.
In a lot of islands of the Caribbean, the street markets are comprised of makeshift stalls displaying and selling jerk foods, vegetable cakes, seafood and much more. But it doesn't end there - there's much more to experience
Street markets in Jamaican cities are comprised mainly of spicy jerk food. The well-known style of preparing food was invented in Kingston, Jamaica.
When cooking, the meat absorbs the flavors or spices (thyme, chili peppers or allspice) before it is smoked and grilled.
Your Caribbean vacation won’t be complete without trying some spicy jerk chicken, fish or pork from the stalls and stands around Jamaican towns. The food can also be found in beach huts all around Jamaica and other islands.
When in Montserrat, start your trip by asking where to find this national obsession. On the islands of Bonaire and Aruba, this Caribbean street food is known as cabrito or kabritu. Don’t be surprised when you hear everyone proclaiming that theirs is the best version of the stew.
In Jamaica, the aromatic stew is made of goat meat, curry and scotch bonnet peppers. Though you might have to be mindful of the bones as you enjoy this food.
Seafood is a surefire highlight of the region's culinary offerings. If you want to enjoy the best seafood sandwich, for example, head to Maracas Beach on Trinidad and try bake and shark.
Bake and shark is prepared by deep frying freshly-caught shark and serving it on fried dough. It can be found on islands like Trinidad and Tobago. Those who want a personalized selection can consider condiments like pepper sauce, pineapple, garlic and more.
You’ll find roti on the streets of many Caribbean islands. However, Trinidad is known to be the king of the burrito-like snack. The Caribbean street food is made with curried chicken, potatoes and goat meat in a tasty wrap.
Note that any other ingredient may be used as well. Roti is part of the Caribbean culture, thanks to the East Indian background and influence.
Trinidad’s doubles is cheap street food made with fried dough, known as barra and curried chickpeas, known as channa.
Doubles will serve you well for breakfast and lunch, especially if you need something tasty and fast. Don’t hesitate to order a few rounds of doubles - one serving might not be enough.
You can’t visit Jamaica and leave without trying pan chicken. If you do, you’ll have missed out on a crucial part of Jamaican culture.
This Jamaican street food is different from jerk chicken. The difference lies in the smoky, savory technique used in preparing the chicken. The enticing scent of the smoke produced while the chicken is cooking will keep you wanting more.
Turks and Caicos is not only a tourist hub - it's also home to the only conch farm in the world. Conch refers to large sea snails usually housed in beautiful shells. Conch appears in stews, soups and salads.
Enjoy raw conch with tomatoes, green pepper, onion and citrus juices. Farm-raised conch is considered the most sustainable way to go. Conch can also be found in the Bahamian and Cayman Islands.
Take a walk down the streets of Jamaican cities and you’ll find vendors selling half-moon shaped pieces of dough filled with beef and chicken.
The soft, semisweet half-moons are called patties and will only cost you a few dollars. They are prepared by wrapping dough around pureed pieces of meat and may also include other spiced ingredients.
Don’t avoid these Caribbean street foods when on vacation simply because you’re worried about trying something new. Remember, you’re on vacation and you should want to explore the local cuisine and have some adventure. Some of these items could become the highlight of your vacation, and you can bring them home as easy Caribbean recipes to make time and time again.
It’s also a way of interacting with the cultures of the islands. Nothing illustrates the mix of cultural influences of the Caribbean like the tasty foods sold on the streets, roadside stands and outdoor markets.