International Cooking: Food from Antigua and Barbuda

I was excited to come to my first Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda. It is composed of two large islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a group of smaller ones.

There were some things I was looking forward to this week, and others I was apprehensive about. There are a lot of shared dishes among Caribbean countries, so I tried to focus on those that were more ‘Antiguan’.

What Do People Eat in Antigua and Barbuda?

Because this is an island nation, fish is commonly eaten, even for breakfast! Chicken, pork and beef are also widely consumed. Potatoes, yams, sweet potato, squash, and eggplant seem to be popular, and rice and macaroni are commonly eaten as part of a meal. There’s a wide range of tropical fruit juices available, and beer and rum are popular. One thing I would have liked to try but which is not really obtainable is Antiguan black pineapple, which is meant to be much sweeter than regular pineapple.

What I Made

Antiguan Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

Antiguan bread pudding with rum sauce

This is a pretty standard bread pudding. You cut up some bread and make a custard to pour over the top, then bake it. There are supposed to be port-soaked raisins too but I don’t really like raisins and chose not to include them. What makes this amazing though, and probably also what makes it an Antiguan bread pudding, is the rum caramel sauce. That stuff was really, really good and I could eat it forever. The pudding itself was pretty good on its own too. The recipe I used is from Food and Drink Antigua. I halved it and I think I had a bit too much bread compared to custard, but it was still really good.

Rum Punch

Rum Punch

Rum punch is a popular Caribbean cocktail and there are a few different ways to make it. The recipe I used, from the SACCO (Sutton African & Caribbean Cultural Organisation) website combines sugar syrup, rum, lime juice and water, which is poured over ice and then topped with some freshly grated nutmeg. I’d probably use less water next time, but this was still pretty good.

Antiguan Breakfast (Chop Up and ‘Saltfish’)

Antiguan Breakfast

A common breakfast in Antigua and Barbuda consists of chop up and saltfish, often accompanied by eggs and toast. There are other additions that are common, such as fungee (see next dish) and fresh fruit.

I didn’t actually use saltfish for this, since I decided to use the cod I still had in the freezer from Angola. I cooked it with tomato, onions and garlic, as that’s how saltfish is often prepared. I also added a pinch of chili flakes. It turned out really good, despite how quick and simple it was.

The chop up is made by mashing boiled eggplant, butternut squash and spinach. It’s seasoned simply, with butter, onion and garlic, and I honestly though it was going to be gross. But it smelled reassuringly buttery as it was cooking, and it turned out tasting alright. Maybe even good. I’m not sure I’m really sold on it, but it’s definitely worth a try. You can find the recipe I used at A Taste for Travel.

I didn’t actually eat this for breakfast because I didn’t like the idea of cod first thing in the morning, but it made a great and filling dinner. I put the fish and chop up on the toast which worked really well; I didn’t even feel it needed butter.

Pepperpot and Fungee

Pepperpot and Fungee

Pepperpot and fungee is Antigua’s national dish, so I had to try it, though I can’t say I was too excited about it.

The pepperpot is a soup or stew with varying ingredients. There can even be versions with only vegetables. But common inclusions are salt beef (corned beef), pork, eggplant, squash, yams, pigeon peas and spinach.

Fungee is made by briefly boiling okra and then combining it and the water with cornmeal and stirring until it comes together into a ball. I feel like my fungee balls looked pretty good but they didn’t taste good and the texture was weird. Supposedly this is similar to polenta, but maybe it’s the okra making it so odd, because I like polenta and I did not like this.

If you want to try this, the recipe I used is from Jirie. For the pepperpot, I omitted the ham and yam, and I used butternut squash instead of acorn, and regular peas instead of pigeon peas. While the dish wasn’t exactly lacking in flavor, I can’t say I really liked it.

Antiguan Seasoned Rice

Seasoned Rice

This is just rice with corned beef, chicken, pumpkin, spinach, tomato, peas and onion. Ingredients vary from recipe to recipe. I get the impression this is the kind of dish that you make when you have a bunch of meat scraps and vegetables you are trying to use up. The recipe I used is from The Integrationist Caribbean. I didn’t use the pig’s snout or tail and I used chicken thighs instead of chicken wings and counted that as also being my fresh meat. This was alright, but not amazing.

Final Thoughts

This week started off really well with the bread pudding and rum punch, and the breakfast was pretty good too, but it kind of went downhill from there. My favorite dish is, without question, the bread pudding, especially the rum sauce!

Next week, I’m excited to be cooking food from my first South American country, Argentina!

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