Tag Archive | food

The Cuisine Of The Caribbean

caribbean food

I love food so when Sherry, who lives in Jamaica, asked if I was interested in a post about the cuisine of the Caribbean I had to say YES! I hope you enjoy!

Food is an important part of the culture of the Caribbean, and the generous portions and wonderful flavors make the most of the native fruits and vegetables that grow in abundance around the islands. With the abundant marine life that is to be found around the islands of the Caribbean, it is unsurprising that seafood also plays an important role in the diet of the region, while meat is also on the menu.

Although many of the influences of the cuisine in the Caribbean is based on the ingredients and spices available in the region, there are also many dishes that are largely influenced by the colonial powers who have played an important, if not always pleasant, role in the habitation of the region.


Almost every type of seafood can be found in the Caribbean islands, with the large fish such as marlin and grouper very popular and almost abundant in the seas of the region. Shellfish are also very popular, with shrimps, crayfish and prawns being very popular. One of the most interesting fish is the ‘Flying Fish’, which is particularly popular fried on the island of Barbados. While frying is a popular cooking method on the former British colonies, one influence to be seen in the former French colonies is that the fish are often served in a rich sauce, or having been lightly grilled and seasoned.

The Vegetables And Staples Of Caribbean Cuisine

Vegetables, fruits and legumes play an important role in the cuisine of the Caribbean, both in terms of adding flavor and texture to the dishes as well as being the main feature of many dishes too. One of the features of Caribbean cuisine is combining fruit and spices with savory dishes to make an interesting dish, with limes and pineapples being particularly popular in this type of dish. In terms of the most common ingredients to be found in Caribbean dishes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, rice, beans and chick peas are all among the staple food that help to add bulk and taste to the Caribbean diet.

Meat In Caribbean Cuisine

Some of the most popular dishes in Caribbean cuisine include meat as a main ingredient, and whether it is barbecued or grilled and served with a sauce of a marinade, or included in a stew, meat plays an important role. As well as the usual meats such as lamb, pork, beef and chicken, goat is also a popular meat in the Caribbean, which is usually roasted with jerk spices or included in a curry or a stew. If there is one dish that is considered to be typical of Caribbean cuisine, then Jerk Chicken is probably the most popular of all. It can be a bit spicy so it’s good to ask first, if you have acid reflux you definitely want to take some precautions as it can be hot!

Street food is an important part of the cuisine in the Caribbean, and meat is to be found of many of these dishes, including in the delicious Empanadas that are to be found in the Dominican Republic and in Jamaica. Jerk chicken is sold from vendors on the street in Jamaica, while the deep fried pork rinds of the Chicharron are superb, although definitely one to eat in moderation!


Many of the restaurants in the Caribbean will stick to European style desserts on their menus, but the wonderful fruits of the islands are a great ingredient that are to be found in many desserts. Barbecued and caramelized bananas are a real treat, while many of the desserts offer a lovely
combination of pineapple and a rum syrup too. In a region which has a warm climate such as the Caribbean, it is also common to see ice cream which is available in a wide range of desserts too.


Image (c) Tim Wilson


Gourmet Food in Taiwan

taiwan food

Traveling to Taiwan is a glorious experience for anyone who loves food, because as Taiwan was always a cultural melting pot and economic center of Asia, it has brought together a lot of different food traditions – from mainland China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and South East Asia as well as some of the Pacific Islands and Indian fare to the west, Taiwan has a grand mixture of tastes and recipes.

A saying in Taiwan goes: “A snack bar is within three steps of you and a large restaurant within five.”

Chinese fare

For a start, in Taiwan you can get every type of local and regional food from China – such as Tianjiang, Beijing, Shandong and southern food such as Sichuanese, Hunanese, Zheijiangan and Guangdong.

International food
Since Taiwan is a multicultural global hub, any tourist there who wants to experience food from back home will find it very easily. From any type of junk food from the USA, to Italian pizza, to Mexican tacos and Spanish fajitas; from halal to kosher everything is available in large quantities.

Local food
Local food is largely based on the staples – rice and noodles. These are flavored with natural and fresh flavors, such as fresh meat (pork, beef, chicken) and vegetables. Food that seems exotic to a tourist but that is a delicacy enjoyed by locals are snakes, dogs, spiders, cockroaches, grasshoppers and monkeys. All sorts of seafood are also used and not much is spared unless it is truly toxic.

Another specialty of Taiwanese food is that it is often mixed with medicinal herbs and plants. Thus medicine in Taiwan is most often consumed in this way and it also depends on the season.

Some famous Taiwanese snacks are pearl milk tea (made from tea, milk and sago pearls which are chewy).

Japanese Food

japanese foodA key part of learning about any new culture is getting to know their food. In fact a meal for many people is their first introduction to a country and a people. I will never forget my first bite of Thai food- life changing, not an exaggeration, although at the time I took it I could not have told you anything about Thailand.

The restaurants common in any city are often signposts to the history of immigration to the region and to the current diversity of the population. In Milwaukee, a medium sized city in the Midwestern US, we have Irish bars, Jewish delis, historic German, Polish, Italian, Chinese and Soul food restaurants, and somewhat newer Indian and Thai establishments.

The newest arrivals to the city dining scene have been Korean and Japanese restaurants. Japanese cuisine, while always popular on the West Coast, has been growing in popularity in other parts of the country and in fact the world. Considering that Japan counts with some of the oldest people in the world- there is great incentive to learn to appreciate this healthful, flavorful cuisine.

Naturally, the traditional dishes of Japan developed based on its own unique history as well as the geographic and climatic situations of the country. Rice has been the most important staple crop for over 2,000 years. In fact the importance of rice cannot be overstated. It is not only the base of most meals but for several products including: cakes, crackers and miso. Vegetables, seafood and tea round out the daily diet. The most commonly recognized Japanese dishes include sushi, tempura, tofu and flavorful noodles. Interestingly, tea was introduced to Japan from China along with chopsticks and soy sauce; the deep-frying of foods such as tofu and tempura was introduced by the Dutch and the Portuguese in the 16th Century.

The most practiced religion on the island, Buddhism, has influenced cooking and dining styles. Buddhism places great influence on the seasons and the harmony within a meal. Seasonality of foods is key in Japanese dining. Buddhism also introduced the idea that meals should feature five flavors and colors: sweet, spicy, salty, bitter and sour; and yellow, black, white, green, and red. Emphasis is also placed on the presentation and appearance of dishes. The better a dish appears, and the more suited it is to the environment the better it is said to taste.

A few notes on politeness. A hot towel is often provided before a meal but is used to clean hands only. The bowl is held in the left-hand and the chopsticks in the right to avoid collisions at the table. It is impolite to pour soy sauce directly on to rice or soup. Instead a bowl is provided on the table and foods should be dipped into it. Picky eating and special requests at restaurants are generally frowned upon the more socially acceptable thing is to eat what is provided. As a traveler, just be sure to ask nicely if you have special needs.

Learning to cook in Thailand

cooking schoolEditor’s Note: My friend Lilly is writing this because I am too busy and she loves the idea of blogging!

There is the joke that when a man suffers a midlife crisis he buys a sports car. Following my divorce I decided to go ahead and indulge my own near midlife crisis by packing it all up and traveling. Inspired by something I read in book club about traveling women, I figured why not? If they could do something different, I could too. (In fact if enough women start expressing their midlife crisis via travel maybe we can develop our own cultural stereotype).

However, being a middle-aged, American woman and not a young free-spirit backpacker type I knew I would need some structure in my daily life. I did a lot of reading and a lot of research before deciding on Thailand as my destination. It was far away, would be a fairly drastic culture change but wouldn’t be too far off the beaten path. Since I am a city person I figured I would start in Bangkok, the capital and most famous city in the country. I was a little overly ambitious and via the web I signed up for cooking classes, language classes and Thai boxing classes before I even boarded the plane. I even prebooked all my hotels. Normally, I am not so nuerotic and I just book the first few nights but I was so excited by the trip, that I booked my whole trip right away. I need it. I spent four nights in Bangkok and then three nights in Phuket. I finish my trip with a beautiful Ko Samui hotel right now the beach. I was amazed at how cheap the hotels were. In fact everything from the hotel to the cooking class was really affordable!

Upon arrival I found that I had underestimated just how exhausting adjusting to normal life in a foreign country would be. I struggled through two days of Thai boxing before giving that up. I stayed in my language classes longer but was by no means a star pupil. However, my cooking classes became my real love and obsession.

There are now over 40 different cooking schools in Bangkok. Most of them are reputable but do your research before choosing one. Most schools teach in English but dishes, styles and prices vary. I chose a school with an informal environment that was near where I was staying and ended up loving it. Probably due to my Southern childhood some of my favorite dishes included fried chicken in Pandan leaves and deep-fried fish cakes with seasonings. My best friend laughed when she heard wondering why I had to go all the way to Thailand just to deep-fry chicken and fish. To my credit I also learned to both prepare and enjoy hot n’ sour prawn soup and coconut rice with mangoes. At first I was fairly wary of the prawns and had my doubts about mango as a desert but grew to love both of these dishes.

One great thing about learning to cook in another country is that it forces you to learn to shop in another country. I didn’t just hop in the car and go to Wal-Mart like I would at home. In order to prepare these dishes with fresh ingredients I had to learn to figure out the world unto itself that is the Thai market. Thai markets for the uninitiated are a truly amazing experience. My first time there I experienced sensory overload from the overwhelming number of stalls, colors, smells and people. But after a month of cooking school, I was weaving my way to my favorite produce stall right along with the locals.

My trip was a success; it certainly broke me out of my routine and helped me build my confidence. It wasn’t specifically where I went or what I learned but just the act of doing something- that was important for me.



I traveled to Singapore last November for a small vacation. It was pretty muggy and the temperature was a little high for my liking but regardless of the climate, Singapore was worth every dollar I spent getting there. The diversity and uniqueness of the food is really what made my trip and while normally my vacations focus on landmarks and World Heritage Sites, this vacation was mostly about eating.

Every year, Singapore puts on a massive Food Festival. It’s filled with carnivals, workshops and promotions. Of course, I missed the Festival by a few months (it’s held in July) and I only know about it because of the tourism site I looked at while in the city. But it’s probably for the best that I missed the Festival because without carnivals and promotions, I was able to enjoy the diverse foods of Singapore in relative quiet and solitude.

My first stop was Singapore’s Little India. In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I’m a raving fan of Indian food. I love all of it but my favorite is North Indian and my tastes are fairly traditional. Singapore’s Little India had some of the dishes I was used to but the channa masala and dal makhani that I normally seek out were in short supply. Instead, Indian food in Singapore is heavily influenced by Tamil cuisine and most of the dishes I encountered were South Indian.

I hade some really great dosai while I was in Little India and one of the more curious places I stepped into was Komala’s. Komala’s is an Indian fast food restaurant where the menu is exclusively vegetarian, I had a masala dosai there and was surprised by the quality. In fact, I even looked them up to see if they had any international locations where I lived and although they have one restaurant in Ontario, there is no Komala’s in the United States.

Upset by the absence of Indian fast food franchises in my homeland, I decided to visit an historical site (something I’d been too distracted by food to do on the first three days of my visit). So with history in mind, I traveled over to the island of Sentosa to visit Fort Siloso.

Fort Siloso was a coastal battery constructed by the British in the late 19th century. It was destroyed during the Japanese invasion but was reconstructed as a museum during the 1970s. Today, it’s the only British-era battery open to the public. The tour took me about an hour and change and while it was an enjoyable site to see, it certainly wasn’t better than the food. That being said, it was fascinating to see a restored WWII battery complete with the guns.

Visiting the fort wasn’t the highlight of my trip but it was important to me to tour some of the historical sites while I was there. However, I did a lot less historical sightseeing than I usually do because I’ve never been to a place with such a diverse selection of fantastic food.