International Cooking: Food from Dominica

Dominica is a small island country in the Caribbean. It was settled by the Arawak people in the fifth century, who came from South America, but by the 15th century another group called the Kalinago drove them out and took over.

It is said that in 1493, Colombus passed by. Later, Dominica was colonized by Europeans, primarily the French who imported slaves from West Africa to work on coffee plantations. Great Britain took possession of the country in 1763, after the Seven Years’ War, and English gradually became the official language. Dominica gained independence in 1978.

Dominica sounds like a beautiful country, largely covered by rainforests, and it is home to many rare plants, animals, and birds.

What Do People Eat in Dominica?

Dominica shares dishes with some of their neighbors in the Caribbean, but usually with their own twists.

Some of the most popular foods include saltfish, which is salted and dried cod, and bakes or johnnycakes, which are fried dumplings (one of the dishes I made this week). Both are often enjoyed for breakfast, but they can also be found as fast food throughout the day.

Common vegetables include plantains, yams, potatoes, and peas, often as accompaniments to meals, though rice is another common side dish. A wide range of fresh fruit is available and is often made into smoothies or juice.

When it comes to meat, chicken is very popular, but you can also find dishes with pork and beef. Fish and various other kinds of seafood are popular too.

Dominica’s national dish used to be mountain chicken, which is not made from chicken at all but a type of giant native frog. The frogs were becoming endangered and are now a protected species, so mountain chicken isn’t as commonly consumed as it once was. Now, the national dish is callaloo, which I made this week.

What I Made

Codfish Sandwich

Codfish sandwich

This is a popular fast food meal in Dominica. I found it hard to get an exact recipe, but I tried to copy what I saw on the Facebook page for Patty Shack Dominica. I breaded a piece of cod and shallow-fried it, though I’m sure it would usually be deep-fried. I put it on a burger bun with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. This was very simple of course, but it was also delicious!

Johnnycakes/Bakes (Fried Dumplings)

Johnnycakes/bakes (fried dumplings)

I’ve made a form of johnnycake before for the Bahamas, which was a lot like a large, sweet biscuit that you cut into slices for serving. At the time, I mentioned how different countries have their own versions of johnnycakes. In Dominica, johnnycakes are also called ‘bakes’, and they are apparently very popular since nearly everyone who replied to my Reddit post suggested I make them. They are made by forming dough into balls and frying them, and they are often filled with cheese or tuna. I chose to eat mine with some cheese. Usually, these are eaten for breakfast.

These were quite simple to make; the dough is made with flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, and water. After a short rest, you make the dough balls and fry them in oil until golden brown and cooked through. I had initially assumed these would be deep-fried, and maybe they often are, but the recipe I used only called for a few tablespoons of oil. I think this worked well, though I did have to lower the heat initially so they didn’t brown too fast.

I used a recipe for Jamaican fried dumplings by ThatNurse CanCook on Youtube. Someone on Reddit recommended it to me; I guess these dumplings are Jamaican too!

Callaloo (Spinach Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings)

Callaloo (Spinach Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings)

Callaloo is Dominica’s national dish. It gets its name from the leafy greens it is made of; since I cannot get callaloo I used spinach, which was the suggested substitute. There are versions of this dish in other Caribbean countries too. In Dominica, it is most often made with crab meat, but smoked pork can also be used and that is the version I made. Dominican callaloo also includes cornmeal dumplings.

To make this, I sautéed some onion, bell peppers, garlic, scallions, thyme, and parsley. Then I added the spinach, followed by coconut milk and some lightly cooked butternut squash. The soup gets blended at this point. I added my pork – which was actually ham since that was the only smoked pork I could get – and then it was time to add the dumplings. These were made with just flour, cornmeal, and water. I liked the callaloo, but I think the dumplings needed baking powder as they were very dense. I could also try making them smaller, though I feel mine were similar in size to those in the video.

This recipe was another one that was recommended to me on Reddit; it is from Frugally T on Youtube.

Caribbean Reef Chicken

Caribbean reef chicken

The chicken in this dish is rubbed with what seemed to me a rather strange combination of ingredients: brown sugar, rum, lime juice, lemon pepper, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, garlic powder, and hot pepper sauce. I used regular pepper and a little lemon juice instead of lemon pepper, and crushed garlic instead of garlic powder. The chicken is baked until done, then you brush it with mango chutney mixed with rum and bake for a few more minutes to warm the chutney.

This was actually really good. I served it with rice, which is pretty authentic, and roasted Brussels sprouts and shallots, which is not.

I followed a recipe from Dominica Recipes. Just make sure you line your baking dish with foil, because otherwise the sugar mixture will end up burning onto the bottom of your baking dish and it will be horrible to try and get off. I had this in mind before I put the chicken in the oven, but decided it would be fine. But it wasn’t! Learn from my mistake!

Final Thoughts

This was another short but good week. I have to say that the johnnycakes were my favorite, but I also really enjoyed the Caribbean reef chicken.

Next week I will be cooking food from the Dominican Republic.

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