Island cuisine with a calypso beat, drawing daily needs from nature's bounty… this is the food of the Cayman Islands. The tropical soil provides a whole range of exotic fruits and vegetables, including calabash, yellow squash, avocados, callaloo (Caribbean spinach), cassava, spring onions, a whole array of citrus fruits, bananas and plantains, sweet potatoes, yams and mangoes.
The Cayman Islands are considered the homeland of the conch, that huge mollusc whose meat is found in soups, fritters or in some other form on just about every local table. The queen conch, Strombus gigas, has been a staple of the local diet for hundreds of years. Until quite recently, conch stew, flavoured with coconut milk, local fruits and vegetables, was the daily meal and the main source of protein for Caymanians. Conch is also marinated and used in salads, or in creamy chowders.
Fishermen provide the tables with tuna, turtle, eel, mackerel and dorado (or dolphin, as it is called here), served Cayman style (with tomatoes, peppers and onions), or "Caprice" as prepared at Ottmar's Restaurant. You will also find crab prepared in numerous ways - in chowder, in crêpes, even in stuffings - and perhaps swordfish, grilled or served as carpaccio.
The taste of Cayman is enlivened by chiles. If you like spicy food, try the local "Hell Sauce," a fiery blend of Scotch Bonnet peppers, tomatoes, vinegar and onions.
You have to know a little about the Cayman Islands to understand their culinary roots and traditions. Still a colony of the United Kingdom, the islands retain definite British influences in their cooking. On the other hand, during colonial times planters brought slaves over from the west coast of Africa who introduced to these enchanting islands their own culinary, linguistic and cultural accents.
If you want to try a traditional breakfast, try codfish with ackee, an egg-shaped fruit whose flavour is reminiscent of scrambled eggs… or perhaps mackerel with plantains.
Don't miss going to the bakery on North Sound Road to buy a rum cake, soaked with local Tortuga rum, a traditional recipe that goes back over 50 years.
Traditional Caymanian cuisine has been enlivened by a strong Jamaican influence of jerk, curry and other vibrant seasonings, complimented by coconut, plantain, breadfruit, yams, cassava, rice and peas.
As they reinvent tradition, combining it with the best of the new, the Cayman Islands offer a spot to recharge, to warm yourself in the sun sipping a rum punch, as stress and the hours drift away.
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