Traditional cuisine in the Cayman Islands has strong links to Jamaica, a nation that colonized the islands before the British. As the Caymans have been a British dependency since 1962, there are also British influences in the islands’ cooking. The chief ingredients are coconut, plantain, cassava, yams, rice, and peas. The spices are heavily influenced by Jamaica, and the soil is hospitable to fruits and vegetables like yellow squash, avocados, callaloo, cassava, calabash, pineapples, peppers, bananas, limes, lemons, mangoes, and grapefruit. Below are five traditional Cayman dishes to try.
1. Heavy Cake (Cassava Cake)
The name may be unappealing, but the cake is delicious. Based on a 200-year-old recipe, this island cake is made of flour, eggs, shredded cassava, coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and cornstarch. It is sweet, moist and dense. It is so popular there is even a yearly Heavy Cake Competition during the Cayman Food and Wine Festival in January-February each year.
2. Cracked Conch
This dish is highly favored by locals and visitors alike and is a staple on Grand Cayman. Similar to conch fritters, it is made of fried conch and served with fennel and tartar sauce. The recommended place to try this traditional dish is at the seaside restaurant of the same name nine miles northwest of Seven Mile Beach.
3. Fish Run-down
Another popular and traditional Cayman option, this slow-cooked stew features fresh fish or salt beef prepared with coconut milk and a selection of root vegetables like cassava and sweet potatoes plus green bananas, plantains, breadfruit, pumpkin and dumplings. The ingredients depend on what is available to the cook so the dish is always different.
4. Caymanian Fruit Cake
This cake is usually served during the Christmas holidays and at wedding celebrations. It is a dark cake made with five kinds of fruits soaked in cake wine, rum or cream sherry, and butter. Who can turn this down?
Turtle stew is considered the national dish of Grand Cayman. It is similar to an American beef stew, but includes turtle meat, cassava, potatoes, onions, and peppers. This traditional meal originated in the 17 century when farming turtles was a common practice. It is still a favorite dish among the local population.
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