I have to sample the local cuisine when I’m on a trip to a new country or region. It’s just a rule, although sometimes nearly impossible. Even when I’ve been in Hawaii, a U.S. state, I have had to work hard to sample the local foods. Partly it’s because the hotels cater to Americans and Asians, so the Hawaiian food gets lost in the menu, or the chefs prefer to serve fancier fusion cuisines. All of that is wonderful, and a culinary treat, but I always want to try something that I can’t get at my local grocery store. Especially when it comes to different fish, vegetables and fruits.
I can’t think of the number of times I have begged the waiter/waitress to ask the chef to simply grill my beautiful, fresh fish and leave it alone, instead of smothering it with this and that sauce. You still have to be a good chef to grill fish properly.
Fortunately, my husband is the same way. He’s not quite as “daring” as I am in the tasting department, but he’s very nice to accompany me on my various treks to track down the local foods, and put up with me when I occasionally ask the chef to serve me his specialty. This was especially the case for me during the nouvelle cuisine and the Pan-American Fusion trends. In my experience, the chefs are always happy to oblige and prepare something off-menu, especially when he or she is a proud local!
In St. Lucia, we hired a guide who understood that we wanted to go to a local restaurant for lunch during a day exploring the island, and that we did.
My lunch is in the featured photo. I requested Jerk Chicken, which came with rice, what they call a French salad, and pieces of breadfruit. We also were serve the local hot sauce, to go along with our lunch. The hot sauce is produced in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia. I’m pretty sure it’s made with habaneros/scotch bonnets because I saw them growing wild on the island, and it’s a yellow hot sauce with orange streaks. My new, favorite hot sauce, by the way!
I’d always thought jerk chicken is more about a rub, but perhaps that is truly only Jamaican jerk. There were some similarities with the jerk flavor of the sauce on the chicken, based on my very limited experiences, and none from actually visiting Jamaica, but I didn’t expect the gloppiness of the sauce. However, it was good and I’d have it again! Note to self, look into jerk. Is it a rub? A marinade? A sauce? All three?
Now, for the breadfruit. This is what it looks like before it’s cooked:
It must be peeled, cored, and boiled before it’s edible. There must have been some hungry, determined people who originally decided to try and eat this! It’s like a bready potato trying to be a fruit, but not really. You just have to try it sometime yourself. I dipped the breadfruit pieces in the juices and hot sauce and it was delightful.
At our hotel in St. Lucia we grew very fond of a young staff member named Dwight, who was born and raised on the island. His English was outstanding and he had a beautiful entrepreneurial spirit at the tender age of 23. On his day off, he arranged transportation for my husband and I to meet him at his aunt’s restaurant, called Martha’s Table. The restaurant part was an open-air room that could have originally been a garage off of her house where she did all the cooking.
My husband and I both ordered Barbecue Chicken off of the menu, and Dwight ordered chicken stew. Below is the photo of my meal:
It was barbecued chicken, with a sweetened, slightly spicy sauce, served with yellow rice (from the local turmeric), slightly sweetened and delicious beans, steamed broccoli and carrots, and the pièce de resistance – a gratin made of dasheen, green bananas, and Parmesan, according to Martha. Wow! The gratin was outstanding. (Dasheen is very similar to taro, I was told.)
This is a photo of fresh turmeric from a market in town; they call it turmerique:
Served on the side was a potato salad seasoned with a little vinegar, and there was canned tuna in it! I ate both servings, because my husband doesn’t like vinegar. I don’t know why, but it was delicious. There was also a macaroni and cheese dish. I hesistantly tried it, because I’m not much of a mac and cheese gal, but it’s like the best one I’ve ever tasted!
Was this all because we were spellbound by the beautiful island, surrounded by tropical flowers, and drinking Piton, the local beer? I really can’t answer that. But this was the best lunch we had in St. Lucia.
This photo is what Dwight ordered: Chicken Stew, with similar side dishes but including bananas and breadfruit.
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy my Octopus Ceviche at the hotel, or the fabulous Tuna Tartar and Grilled Mahi-Mahi, but there’s nothing like eating like the locals, with the locals. Those were some spectacular experiences that we will always remember.