Eat Like a Local – 15 US Virgin Islands Foods to Try

Curry chicken, rice and peas, baked macaroni & cheese and sweet plantation is a favorite, local meal.
Curry chicken, rice and peas, baked macaroni & cheese and sweet plantation is a favorite, local meal.

 

By now you’ve come to realize that the gastronomy of the Virgin Islands is like no other in the world; benefiting from the influence of so many cultures and peoples, our cuisine is wonderfully unique and richly flavourful. It’s so easy to visit our islands and fall in love with our food, our culture, and our people. But how can you get a bit of that island flavor once you’re back at home? Never fear, because many of our delicious local dishes are easy to make at home, and thanks to local specialist shops, you can even purchase certain items and have them conveniently shipped to your door.

Savories, Sides, and Snacks

 Johnny cakes are a staple part of any islander’s diet. Versions of these flatbreads are made throughout the US, in part because they’re not only tasty, but also simple to make. Local cooks use white flour while other Caribbean islands sometimes use cornmeal. Both are divine. In the Virgin Islands, we eat johnny cakes at breakfast and wash them down with a hot cup of bush tea. These are quick and easy to make any time of the day. For a recipe, please go to: https://food52.com/recipes/24769-the-islands-johnny-cake

Another breakfast favorite, dumb bread is named for the smart way it’s made. Made with flour, sweetened with coconut, and stuffed with cheese, is cooked in a skillet over hot coals, with more hot coals placed on the lid to cook it from all sides. Want to try your hand at making dumb bread? Check out: http://stthomassource.com/content/lifestyles/food-and-wine/2002/05/21/serve-mini-dumb-breads-smartly-dessert-1

Pates are the Virgin Islands cousin to empanadas, that is seasoned meat or fish in pastry which is then fried to perfection. It’s a favorite snack, especially with beef, conch, or saltfish, and make great party bites that everyone will love. Here’s an excellent recipe for this super tasty snack: http://www.cruciancontessa.com/2015/01/16/beef-pate/

Salmon balls may be common in many regions, but the recipe used in the VI will make you forget about all the others. Spicy and packed with fresh herbs, Virgin Islands salmon balls make for tasty appetizers. For an easy step by step recipe, go to: http://www.virginislandsrecipes.com/salmon-balls

Although we make many wonderful eats in the Virgin Islands, boiled fish and fungi is the most famous and is considered to be the unofficial dish of the islands. If you haven’t sampled it, you can’t truly say you’ve had the full VI experience. Fungi is a polenta-like dish that is cooked with fresh okra and a popular side dish with fish. Impress your friends by serving up the Vl classic with this authentic recipe: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Boiled-Fish-with-Onion-Sauce-and-Fungi

In need of a hearty dish to warm you up as the temperatures drop? Goat water is classic stew that will do just the trick. This thick brown stew gets its name from goat, the main ingredient and is often enjoyed at breakfast. This rib-sticking dish is more than enough to set you up for the day. http://www.virginislandsrecipes.com/goat-water-s-brown

Potato stuffing is a featured side for family gatherings, and holiday dinners like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Why not bring a little something extra by making Island-style potato stuffing? Filled with vegetables, this healthy side is a little sweet, a little savory, and very tasty; it’ll be a huge hit. Check out this delicious take: http://thatgirlcookshealthy.com/caribbean-potato-stuffing-virgin-islands

Red peas soup is a Jamaican dish also extremely popular in the Virgin Islands. More than a few locals remember eating it in grade school. Made with kidney beans (called red peas in the Caribbean), this spicy soup is almost like a stew and a great filler when you need something robust. For a simple, yet delicious recipe, go to: http://www.virginislandsrecipes.com/red-peas-soup

Sweets

Gooseberry stew, also known as cherry stew, is a local favorite. For a sweet, tangy taste that’s spiced to perfection, it’s ideal as a side or topping for virtually anything; try it at your next BBQ, over ice cream, or even on its own! Gooseberry stew is available to purchase at: http://savorstcroix.com/product/gooseberry-stew

Tamarind balls are another sweet and sour delight that islanders and visitors alike can’t get enough of. Usually, tamarind balls are simply tamarind pulp rolled in sugar, but for an extra kick, some like to add a little cayenne or black pepper. Need tamarind balls sent straight to your door? Go to: http://savorstcroix.com/product/tamarind-balls

Dundersloe is a treat you’ll often find being sold by street vendors along the main roads. It’s the Virgin Islands version of peanut brittle and makes for a sweet, crunchy souvenir to bring back after vacationing down on one of our beautiful islands. If you forgot to pick up dundersloe before heading home, you can order some at: http://savorstcroix.com/product/long-ago-candy-combo

Looking for something sweet for your next party? Try a Virgin Islands tart. These are staple desserts when Christmas rolls around. Coconut is a favorite, but guava or pineapple are just as delicious and will not only impress your guests but will be a hit at any dinner party or family gathering. Here’s a fantastic recipe for this sweet treat: http://www.virginislandsrecipes.com/tart

Like its name suggests this may have origins or take inspiration from the famous Viennese layer cakes of Austria, but the Virgin Islands Vienna cake is a luxury that is wholly unique. It incorporates jellies from tropical fruits grown on the islands: guava, gooseberry, guavaberry, pineapple and green gage, carefully layered over between cake and icing. Decadent, flavorful and beautiful to boot, it’s impossible to have just one slice. For a phenomenal recipe, click: http://disgroupinc.com/FanF/VIENNACAKE2.html

 Drinks

You’ll need something to wash down all these delicious eats, and there’s nothing better than bush tea to do the job. In the Virgin Islands, bush tea is usually enjoyed at breakfast with johnny cakes or dumb bread. The best versions are sold by street vendors and local eateries, but you can also purchase tea boxes so you can enjoy a bush tea every day, available at: https://www.facebook.com/vibushtea/

Peanut punch is an incredibly popular in the Virgin Islands and throughout the entire Caribbean. It’s sold by both street vendors and in supermarkets, made from a delicious blend of peanut butter, milk, sugar, and spices. If you find yourself in St. Croix, Ace Roti Shop has some of the best on the island.

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