Yesterday was Saturday and it was Puddin and Souse day all over Barbados. You can get Puddin and Souse at most restaurants, rum shops, food stands and from people selling from their home, it’s similar to having pasta on Wednesday or fish on Friday. I get my weekly fix from the Golden Sands in Christ Church but you can get it almost anywhere.
My friend Fritz asked me months ago to talk about some of the traditional food dishes on the island. I decided to make a list of 10 foods items that I think you should try if you visit Barbados! Of course, there are countless good foods but this list has some of my favorites. I have not included alcoholic beverages because I personally do not drink. However, if you do like an occasional drink, there is rum from several distilleries (including the world famous Mount Gay Rum Distilleries) and many cocktails that you could also try.
1. Flying Fish*
Flying Fish is the one thing you simply must try! Flying Fish and Cou Cou is the national dish of Barbados! It’s usually prepared with a little salt and pepper or with special Bajan seasoning and can be either fried or steamed with sliced onions and cherry tomatoes.
Cou-cou is similar to grits or polenta and is part of the national dish of Barbados, flying fish and cou-cou. It’s made with cornmeal and okra, and is served with flying fish and gravy.
An unusual looking fruit, but it’s a very nutritious and starchy. Breadfruit is plentiful around the island in fact, I have several trees in my backyard. I picked 5 yellow meat breadfruit just yesterday. Breadfruit can be cooked any way that potatoes are prepared. They can be used in making breadfruit cou-cou that has the consistency of mashed potatoes. It can be boiled, baked, pickled, roasted, grilled, made into chips or fried like potato wedges.
4. Rice and Peas
A blend of rice and savory pigeon peas usually served with fried fish, chicken, pork, or beef stew.
5. Macaroni Pie
Macaroni pie is a rich baked, mac and cheese. Instead of elbow macaroni, it’s made with tubed macaroni noodles that are broken and mixed with cheese, herbs and spices, onion, and a mix of ketchup, yellow mustard and a little mayonnaise . Some people substitute the ketchup with diced tomatoes and also incorporate chunks of meat into it.
6. Puddin and Souse
The “pudding” in this dish is made of grated white sweet potatoes that are mixed with onions, salt, pepper and peppers. It used to be stuffed into a clean pig intestine and tied off — similar to a sausage, but now it is made without the pig skin. The “souse” is made up of parts of the pig that are pickled – the feet, snout, or ears. However, my favorite is to have pickled chicken (wings and white meat) substituted for the pig meat. Chicken feet known as steppers can also be used.
7. Fish Cakes
Fried cakes are made of salted cod fish and mixed with Bajan herbs and spices. Once the batter is prepared they are dropped into hot oil to create the fried rounded balls crisp on the outside with a soft spicy interior. They can be eaten alone or between a sliced bun called a salt bread which isn’t salty at all.
Cooked by steam and wrapped in a banana leaf, conkies are a traditional Bajan dish. Corn flour mixed with coconut, spices, sugar, pumpkin, and the optional raisins or cherries make up this sweet treat. Originally, they were prepared on Guy Fawkes Day. Now, it’s eaten any time but especially when celebrating Barbados’ Independence Day.
Made primarily from the bark of a tree, mauby drink is brewed with mauby bark, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Although mauby syrup is packaged and sold in the store, there are still people who make this popular drink from scratch. It’s bitterness makes it an acquired taste. It took me about 30 years of making faces when I tasted it to get where I am now, it’s my favorite Bajan drink! The south in the US has sweet tea, Barbados has mauby.
Sorrel is a sweet drink made from dried sorrel leaves. The leaves are boiled with cloves, cinnamon, coconut essence and a little sugar. It used to be a drink made only at Christmas time but now it is drunk anytime.
Flying fish, which are common to most tropical seas, are found in the warm waters surrounding Barbados. The species found in this region are about 25cm long and are shaped like a herring.
The remarkable feature of this fish is its ability to “fly”! Actually, the fish don’t “fly” … they glide through the air up to distances of 30-40 metres. Just before takeoff, the fish swims quickly towards the surface, bursting into the air at speeds of 55 kmph!
Once it is airborne, the fish spreads its large pectoral fins and appears to be “flying”. This ability helps the fish to escape from predators.