3 Key Things To Know About Caribbean Food

As Caribbean restaurants become more common in the United States, you may be wondering what you can expect when you visit one. If you take a look at a menu, you'll discover some of the key dishes these restaurants offer. However, there is more to Caribbean food than a simple list of dishes. Here are three key facts you should know about Caribbean food prior to your first restaurant visit.

It varies by island. 

The Caribbean is not a monolith. There are many different islands in the region, and each one has a unique culture and cuisine. The islands best known for their food tend to be Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Bahamas. So, if you visit a Caribbean restaurant, there's a good chance many items on the menu hail from these islands. However, you may also see dishes from other islands, such as Aruba, Saint Lucia, Barbados, and Grenada. Some Caribbean restaurants focus on cuisine from one island in particular, but many do offer a variety of dishes from several islands.

It has been heavily influenced by other cuisines over the years.

As you begin eating Caribbean cuisine, you may find some elements of it that seem oddly familiar. For instance, you may taste a spicy stew and notice flavors that you've had in Creole or Cajun cooking. You may try a piece of roasted meat and find it reminiscent of American barbecue. This is because, over the years, numerous other nations have colonized and influenced the Caribbean islands, and as they have done so, they have brought with them various seasonings and food trends.

It isn't always spicy.

Caribbean food has the reputation of being hot and spicy. Some dishes certainly fit this profile. However, not all dishes do. There are all sorts of dishes that contain little to no spice at all. Ackee and saltfish, for example, is a non-spicy Jamaican dish made with leafy green veggies and fish. The Cuban sandwich is a hallmark Cuban dish consisting of pork, ham, cheese, pickles, and mustard on a roll; it's not spicy. Then, there's ropa vieja, another Cuban dish consisting of pulled beef in a tomato sauce. Don't avoid a Caribbean restaurant if you don't like spice; there should be plenty on the menu for you.

Armed with the knowledge above, you should be prepared for a great time when you visit a Caribbean restaurant. Enjoy your meal!