Cayman Cuisine: An Introduction
Strong winds ensured that The Cayman Islands were discovered in 1503 by Christopher Columbus – having moored here, he named the 2 islands that he saw Las Tortugas – or “The Turtles”, after the islands’ green shelled inhabitants.
Though it was the marine crocodile – Caymanas in Carib, that gave the islands the name you know today. Since then the islands have been under the rule of both England and Jamaica – and it’s these two nations that have left the most significant mark on the cuisine of the Caymans.
Ingredients and Preparation
To begin to understand the rich flavours and delicate textures of Cayman cuisine, you have to first get to grips with the used ingredients. Now when it comes to traditional dishes the main ingredients that you’ll encounter are seafood, coconut, plantain, yams, cassava, rice and peas as well as conch and turtle meat.
However, Jamaican cuisine, which has had a gigantic influence brought in more exotic spices such as jerk, curry and other seasonings. The land of the Cayman Islands is fertile, providing a delicious selection of exotic fruits and vegetables such as avocados, yellow squash, Caribbean spinach, cassava, calabash, spring onions,plantain, tomatoes, peas, chili, peppers and a good lot of fruits including oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, bananas, pineapples and mangoes.
Be sure to try the local fruit from either the local markets or the road side fruit sellers – simple but magnificent. When it come to preparation of local dishes you’ll find a great deal of diversity – especially when it comes to fish dishes – which is the main source of protein for most inhabitants.
If you’re familiar with Jamaican cuisine then you’ll recognise lots of the borrowed methods. Using the right amount of spices for example is essential which is used both for flavour and colour.
The visual aesthetic of a dish is also important – with a delicate balance between colours and proportions taking priority. You’ll note that each traditional dish has a special cooking method, though it’s generally quite similar from one part of the islands to the others.
The traditional national dish is turtle stew; conch is also popular, especially in a stew of served raw with juice and onions. You’ll find a slew of influences from other Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad. Fish rundown – popular in Jamaica, is especially popular.
The islands are home to a great collection of spicy dishes- lookout for chili sauce made of tomatoes, onions, vinegar and peppers, which is delicious. Lunch time grills are also popular – especially fish. If some of the more traditional dishes aren’t your thing then we suggest that you try at least a Mango Chicken dish, Jerk Chicken and a Cayman fruit cake – which is delicious – made of fruits soaked in cake wine, rum or sherry and butter.
The Cayman Islands today are a cosmopolitan mix of more than 100 cultures – meaning that the restaurants and to some extent, the cuisine of the island, has had to adapt. As a result of this, you’ll find that restaurants in the Cayman Islands are extremely diverse. Thanks to this – the Cayman Islands’ have become known in some circles as the Culinary.
Once here you’ll find a fabulous collection of fine dining restaurants for the connoisseur, for for those with more worldly needs – you’ll find sushi restaurants, steakhouses and of course a variety of traditional restaurants serving both Caribbean food and traditional Cayman dishes.