Barbados is an island in the Caribbean. I’ve cooked food from a few Caribbean countries so far, so I had some idea what to expect. Of course, every country has something different, and I was curious to see what I could make for Barbados.
What Do People Eat in Barbados?
Bajan cuisine is a result of influences from many countries, though most of the meals I came across seemed to be in line with what other Caribbean countries eat. Curry is pretty popular, though not native to Barbados, and you can also get British-style fish and chips and American fast foods such as hot dogs and burgers.
As you might expect, fish is popular in Barbados. Flying fish is the most prominent native fish, but mahi mahi and billfish, such as swordfish, are common too. As far as meat goes, chicken and pork show up in a lot of dishes, and it was suggested I make a ham as part of my cooking challenge since I could use the leftovers for sandwiches. I did like this idea, but ultimately decided not to make it because it would have been too much food just for me (my husband is weird and doesn’t like ham).
A meal will typically consist of a main dish based on meat or fish, accompanied by a few side dishes, such as potato salad, macaroni pie, cou cou, or rice and peas. Popular condiments are ketchup and Bajan pepper sauce.
Desserts are often based on coconut, rum, raisins, or local fruits. One thing I thought about trying but ultimately didn’t was sugar cakes, which are made mostly of sweetened coconut that is often dyed. Rum cake also sounded good, but there are only so many sweet things I can make during this challenge!
What I Made
- Bajan Swordfish
- Macaroni Pie
- Bajan Pepper Sauce
- Salt Bread
- Cutter (Sandwich)
- Pudding and Souse
- Fish Cakes
- Bread and Two (Fish Cake Sandwich)
The national dish of Barbados is flying fish and cou cou. The fish can be stewed or fried, and the cou cou is a mush made from cornmeal and okra. I wanted to make this dish, but I couldn’t get flying fish and the cou cou sounded too much like the fungee I made for Antigua and Barbuda, which I really didn’t like. It was suggested in the Barbaros subreddit that I wasn’t using fine enough cornmeal, and that may be the case, but I don’t think I’m ready to try it again just yet. As for the fish, some recipes online said sea bass is a good substitute for flying fish. Again, the Barbados subreddit stepped in to say that this is not the case. And I probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway, since sea bass is expensive.
So, I followed some suggestions and prepared a different fish that is commonly eaten in Barbados, with Bajan seasoning. Swordfish and mahi mahi both came up, and I went with the swordfish because my husband likes it. I seasoned it according to this recipe from Milk Street, with onion, chives, garlic, thyme, allspice, lime zest and a little vinegar and brown sugar. I baked it in the oven rather than grilling, but I do think it would be really good grilled. It was my first time eating swordfish and I wasn’t sure how it would hold up, but it turned out pretty well. I served this with some Bajan pepper sauce and macaroni pie.
I know I made macaroni and cheese only a few weeks ago for The Bahamas, but macaroni pie was a popular suggestion and I did still have half a box of macaroni so I decided to go ahead and make it.
This was similar in some ways to the Bahamian macaroni and cheese in that both are usually served in squares, feature peppers and onion, and are often a little spicy. But this version also had ketchup and mustard, and I have to say they gave the dish some really good flavor. It doesn’t taste like ketchup or mustard at all, just delicious. I got the recipe from Cooking Aboard With Jill.
Bajan Pepper Sauce
This isn’t really a dish on its own, but it’s a very popular condiment in Barbados. I thought about buying some from Amazon, but I already have like five different kinds of hot sauce. Then I came across a recipe for homemade Bajan pepper sauce from Barbados.org, so I decided to just make it. It’s meant to be made with scotch bonnet peppers, but I used habaneros instead since that’s what I could get. My sauce isn’t completely smooth, but the recipe said to leave it slightly chunky so I did.
This stuff was really good! I ate it with the swordfish and with various sandwiches I made with the salt bread (see below). It’s also really good on eggs.
This bread isn’t actually salty. In fact, these are really just like regular bread rolls, and I love bread so I don’t need much of an excuse to make some. In Barbados, salt bread is one of the few types of bread that isn’t sweet, which is probably how it got its name. It’s popular for making sandwiches with a range of ingredients.
I used the recipe from My Bajan, but I doubled the salt because I didn’t think there was enough. True, this bread isn’t supposed to be salty, but if you don’t put enough salt in bread it can come out tasting pretty bland. My salt bread came out delicious, and I’m glad I did increase the salt.
In Barbaros, a sandwich is known as a cutter. A common cutter filling is ham and cheese with Bajan pepper sauce, and I added some tomato as well. Mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup are common condiments too. It is important to use proper cheese here, like cheddar, and not American cheese. According to the Bajan subreddit, that would be wrong. This was easy for me though, since I rarely buy American cheese and always have cheddar on hand. Ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches happen to be one of my favorites, and I love the Bajan pepper sauce, so of course I enjoyed this a lot.
Pudding and Souse
Pudding and souse is a popular lunch in Barbaros. The pudding is made of steamed sweet potato, and the souse is pickled pork. Traditionally, the souse was made using pig trotters, ear, snout, and tongue, but this isn’t always the case nowadays. I used a more modern recipe from Barbados.org, which suggested pork shoulder could be used for the souse, so that is what I did. I cooked it, then shredded it, and mixed it with cucumber, lime juice, parsley, onion, and habanero. I refrigerated the souse for a few hours before serving. The pudding is just grated sweet potato, mixed with thyme, marjoram, chives, more habanero, and some butter. This used to be mixed with pig’s blood and is often still served in pork casings, but I didn’t use either. The pudding can be steamed or baked in the oven. I chose to bake it since that was easier for me.
This is usually served with breadfruit on the side, but that’s not something I can get here. I made a lot of salt bread so I ate that with my pudding and souse.
I actually don’t really like sweet potato. I find it too sweet! So I was kind of wary about the pudding. But it actually turned out pretty good, and I think it’s because usually when I’ve had sweet potato before, it’s been roasted, which just makes it sweeter. Sweet potato is something I have always wanted to like, so maybe now I’ll try eating it in some other recipes.
As a whole, I found this dish to be really good.
These fish cakes are made from salted cod mixed with onion, herbs, and Bajan pepper sauce, held together in a flour, egg, and milk batter. They’re deep fried and can be served as an appetizer with various dipping sauces, or on salt bread.
I used the recipe from Mrs. Island Breeze and I have to say, these things were really good. I didn’t buy salt cod because I already had regular cod in the freezer, and I felt it probably wouldn’t make too big of a difference in a recipe like this. I did find a method of salting the fish briefly, which I carried out, and I made sure to add salt to the fish cake batter. I would definitely make these again, though probably not too often as they’re not exactly good for you!
Bread and Two (Fish Cake Sandwich)
This is just a sandwich with two fish cakes on it, known in Barbados as ‘bread and two’. I added some Bajan pepper sauce too. I don’t feel this is a proper dish on its own but since I was already making the salt bread and the fish cakes, I thought I would eat it and take a photo. This was delicious!
Bajan bakes are like little, sweet, cinnamon-flavored pancakes, though they don’t have egg in them and are made with water rather than milk. I shallow fried mine, but they are often deep fried. Bakes are typically eaten for breakfast, often with other foods such as bacon, eggs, beans, and plantains, but they can also be enjoyed as a snack throughout the day.
I followed this recipe from Cookpad because the author talks about their Bajan nan making them, so it must be authentic! I really liked them; my husband ate them but says they’re not for him. But he’s picky and won’t eat 90% of the things I’m making for this challenge so that doesn’t mean much.
This was another great week! I think my favorite dish was the fish cakes, and the salt bread made for some excellent sandwiches.
Next week I will be cooking food from Belarus, which I expect will be quite different from anything I’ve made so far.