TOP 5 CREOLE COMFORT FOODS (TAP 5 KRIOL KOMFAR FUUD)*
During these first 4 months on the Caribbean island of San Andrés I’ve come across a wide variety of delicious dishes. If I were to tell you about all of them the list would go on and on, so I’ve decided to give you a little taste of the ones that give me a warm feeling at the end of a specially tiring day. Come and explore the island and its rich cuisine and make your own list!
1. BREADFRUIT & BUSH TEA (Bredfrut ahn Bush Tii)
Breadfruit and bush tea... What a heavenly combo!
I may be biased as I truly love breadfruit. My love-affair with this funny-looking fruit started in 2004 during my first visit to Jamaica and since then I can’t get enough of it!
It can be cooked in many different ways: deep-fried, baked, and steamed but my all-time favorite is undoubtedly a plate of crunchy and flavorsome breadfruit chips!
After a long and stressful day, nothing makes me happier than being served some fried breadfruit accompanied with a fuming cup of sweet bush tea, usually wild mint.
Bush tea is how islanders refer to herbal tea, which they make using one or more types of medicinal herbs that are grown in their gardens. Some of the most common herbs are mint, black mint, pepper mint, guinny hen, wild and tame barlsey, mataraton, malva, sage, fever grass and toronjil.
Bush tea is not only a hot beverage to accompany dinner; in fact each kind of herb and tea derived from it has its specific medicinal properties. For example, the extremely bitter mataraton (trad.: rat killer) is used to fight very high fever.
2. CRAB PATTY (Krab Paty)
Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of these delicious patties because every single time, I devour them all before I remember to take a picture. Patties, just like the Italian ‘panzerotti’, are half-moon shaped fried dough filled with many different ingredients.
On San Andres, each woman is famous for a specific dish and luckily for me, my boyfriend’s mom is known for her legendary crab patties. They are so delicate, yet an explosion of flavor.
I think one of her secrets is that she only uses fresh crab that she catches herself with the help of her grandchildren. She then takes time to get all the crab pulp out of the shells and mixes it with some oil, peppers, onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cilantro.
3. FRITTERS (Frittaz)
Frittaz are quite similar to the Italian ‘gnocchi fritti’, which are basically fried dough strips. Nothing special, right? Still, once you start eating them (warm) it’s really hard to control yourself– they’re quite addictive!
They are perfect to eat at dinnertime, accompanied with some cheese and/or fried sausage and, of course, bush tea.
4. RONDONG (Rondon)
The most emblematic dish of San Andrés Island is Rondon. Its origin dates back to the 15th century, during the slavery era, and it’s traditionally prepared by a group of men that get together, each bringing some of the ingredients.
There are many types of Rondon, depending on the main ingredient of choice: Rondon krab (crab), Rondon fish, Rondong kongs (seashell), Rondong labsta (lobster). My favourite is Rondon krab, which I had the pleasure to enjoy on Easter Sunday at a family gathering on the beachfront.
No matter the type of seafood, these are the must-have ingredients for the Rondon:
- Coconuts (for the coconut milk)
- Starches such as cassava, plantain, breadfruit, sweet potato, yam, and more recently, potatoes
- Pigtails and sometimes pig ribs
- Flour dumpling
- Herbs and spices, including thyme, garlic, onions, basil, oregano, peppers and meat seasoning.
Rondon is a very social dish: people get together in someone’s yard to prepare the BIG pot and have a good time telling stories and chatting while the savory soup is bubbling on the fire and when is time to dish it out, people always have extra plates to bring to the neighbors.
Here’s the song in Kriol “Giwi wi pat ah Rondon!” that describes how to make a good pot of Rondon.
5. TAMARIND BALL (Tamran Baal)
Tamarind is a very valued tree on the island of San Andres and its fruit is used to make juice, savory dishes and candy. The term ‘tamarind’ comes from the Arabic word for ‘Indian date’ and that is probably why I wasn’t smitten by this funny looking fruit: I’ve never liked dates.
The first time my co-teacher offered me a tamran baal I was a bit worried I wasn’t going to like it since I wasn’t impressed with the fruit in its natural/raw form. Boy, was I mistaken! I did love the sticky sweet and sour candy made of tamarind pulp and sugar. I even enjoy sucking the very cute seeds that are mixed in the ball.
Tamran baal is the perfect candy to pick at while working at my desk in the teachers’ room, making the lesson planning and marking much sweeter.
* Words in Italics are written using the San Andrean Creole spelling
Author: Lucilla Fanthini
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