Virgin Islands Cuisine
The Virgin Islands are famous for spectacular and beautiful islands gifted with emerald green hillsides, intense white sand, pastel blue skies and turquoise water. Another benefit of these little dotted specks in the Caribbean map that might not immediately come to mind–the exotic and delicious Virgin Islands cuisine.
Because of it’s colorful history and culture, the Virgin Islands are home to an amazing array of delicious and tasty cuisine. Although some of these dishes have evolved to suit the changing tastes that come with time, most of them were preserved from the time of their conception or arrival to the Virgin Islands.
Fish and Fungi (foon-jee) is the US Virgin Islands’ unofficial dish. This recipe dates back to the Danish rule of the Island. Slave masters provided each slave six quarts of cornmeal and six salt herring per week, as specified in Danish Law. Occasionally, other foods, like yams and other vegetables, were included in the ration. Fish and fungi is a dish that is the result of the creativity of African women who took charge of cooking.
Callaloo (or Kallaloo) is a popular Caribbean dish which is basically a soup or stew made from green leafy plants such as daheen, taro or Xanthosoma and mixed with okra. It’s usually flavored with salted or plain fish, black pepper, onions and other spices. It’s uniquely Caribbean, created by enslaved Africans copying the indigenous stew and putting okra into the mix.
Johnnycake is another Virgin Islands cuisine staple, which is deep-fried unleavened bread. In the past they were called ‘journey cakes,’ being unleavened and impervious to souring or spoiling for a long period of time. Today’s version has a little leavening though, like baking powder, but the main ingredients are still non-yeast such as flour and cornmeal.
Pate (pah-tay) is a pastry stuffed with fillings ranging from beef, chicken, conch, salted or plain fish, goat, vegetables, and cheese. This local version of a Hot Pocket is known all over the Caribbean by names such as pastelitos, patties, and empanadas.
Roti is a dish of stewed or curried meat; chicken (which is the most popular), conch, beef, shrimp, goat, vegetables wrapped in a light fluffy dough called the ‘roti skin.’ Roti came to the Virgin Islands by way of Trinidad and Tobago, by Indians who were brought to the Caribbean after the end of slavery.
Rice and Beans (also called rice and peas) is a common Virgin Islands traditional dish. It’s basically rice and beans loaded with different spices such as thyme, scallions, allspice, black pepper, and chilies. One variation is the flavored rice (without the beans) which goes usually as a side-dish.
Conch (pronounced conk) is a mollusk whose meat is a popular treat in the Virgin Islands. Conch meat can be eaten raw (mixed in salads), or cooked into chowders, fritters, burgers and gumbos.
Salt fish, or dried fish, is a staple through the Caribbean which goes back to the days of colonial rule. First introduced to the Islands in the 16th century, pickled and salted fish (usually cod) has since become a part of the local cuisine which can be prepared in many different ways, including fried, in chowders and stews
Local Virgin Islands cuisine is extremely popular with the tourists because it’s tasty and unique. Next time you head down to the Virgin Islands, be sure to try a few of the local delicacies.