Who wouldn’t love to spend a weekend or even a full week in the Caribbean? We’re pretty sure we know what your answer will be. The Caribbean is home to no shortage of marvels including its people, beaches, sunsets, forests that extend to the coast, its rich culture and, above all, its incredible cuisine. Its cuisine is known for being a tropical mix of flavors and textures. This multicultural region with its varied cuisine is partially the result of the arrival of Columbus to the Caribbean coast in 1502. The conquest led to the arrival of people from Jamaica – Indians, East Asians and the first waves of Jewish migration, as well as the indigenous population of Bribri and Cabécar living in the mountains of Talamanca. Many of the recipes that we enjoy today are the result of this cultural mélange.
We’ve given ourselves the task of visiting some of the places that have been recommended to us and talking with the people there about the dishes that can’t be missed if you’re passing through the area. Get ready for the spice of Scotch bonnet peppers and the sweetness of coconut.
Is your mouth watering yet? Well, here are your main options:
- Caribbean Rondón: Come to the Caribbean to try this famous soup, said to raise the dead, and head out for a stroll through Parque Vargas or the Puerto Limón malecón, or seaside promenade. The soup has its roots in Afro-Caribban culture, consisting of a fish or shellfish soup with green plantain, tubers and chilies mixed in, along with the indispensable sweetness of coconut milk.
- Patí: ¡Patí, patí! You may hear these words being spoken around the Caribbean coast. The patty is definitely one of the most iconic foods of the region. Furthermore, it’s delicious: eating just one is impossible, so make sure not to miss out on this recommendation. The origins of patties are not to be found along the Costa Rican coastline, but rather in Jamaica. It is an adaptation of the old English pastry with African ingredients brought over from the continent. The pastry is filled with meat, spices and hot chilies.
- Plantintá (plantain tart): now, we’ll head over to a sweet recipe that’s just as delicious as the others. The name comes from the words “plantain tart”, and it is a rich plantain-and-cheese pastry. The filling is normally reddish, which comes from a few drops of natural red coloring that give it this hue. It is an old recipe from the African population of the Antilles, the result of the mixing of cultures during colonization.
- Hiel or agua de sapo: a great option if you’re looking for refreshment. It’s a drink made from water, limes, tapa de dulce (evaporated cane sugar, also known as panela or rapadura), and a Caribbean touch in the form of grated ginger. The most interesting part is its preparation, since the water and tapa de dulce are boiled together along with the ginger. Let it cool, strain it and add the lime juice and more water. Then serve chilled with ice. Delicious!
- Pan bon: also known as “black bread”, this delicious appetizer can be found all around the Caribbean at restaurants, cafés and even street vendors. There’s no excuse to miss out on trying it, or bringing some back for your friends and family. We heard through the grapevine that the bus stop has some of the best, so check it out!
- Caribbean mackerel escabeche: fish and shellfish feature prominently on Caribbean menus, and you’ll probably see mackerel escabeche on offer. The escabeche is the Caribbean touch. Mackerel, called macarela or caballa in Spanish, is the ideal fish for the recipe, whose ingredients include onions, lemons, Scotch bonnet peppers, olive oil and banana vinegar, among others. Some locals tell us that Caribbean Kalisi, in the heart of Limón, offers a particularly flavorful version, just so you know.
- Whole fish with patacones: you can’t miss out on a lunch of a great whole fish cooked Caribbean style. Grilled fish is great even unadorned, so just imagine the flavor that only this region can add to it. In addition, patacones (twice-fried green plantain) are a perfect side to this and other dishes, so get ready to try them out. This is a recommended option in almost all of the region’s restaurants.
- Lobster paste and shellfish pizza: if you prefer a more traditional option with a Caribbean touch, these two dishes are sure to delight you. Café Viejo in Puerto Viejo is one recommended option, but plenty of places offer similar delicacies.
- Do you have an image in your head? Well, now you know where you need to go on your next vacation.