Week 6: Antigua and Barbuda

Our first Caribbean country! With so many little islands with a lot of culinary and cultural overlap, I’m trying to pick out what’s really distinctive about the cuisine of each.

My prep-work was made really easy this time: I found the recipes for the entire meal on just one page! Big thanks to Cordy for that, especially the photos which helped me make sure I did it right.

This was our first meal on a weeknight, thanks to Irene. Our guest of honor was Ed, better known as the NYC Nomad — for the last year and a half he’s been staying in a different neighborhood of New York each week, and this week he’s camping in our backyard. Our other guests were Lauren, Cory, Elsa, Jess, and Laura’s friend Laura.

Ducana | Sweet potato and coconut dumpling

While fungee (cornmeal mash) seems to be the classic Antiguan starch, it’s so similar to the fufu/cou-cou/funji of so many other Caribbean and West African countries that I was happy to discover a legit alternative. Ducana also served the role of both starch and dessert — with sugar, spices, and raisins.

After last week’s lesson I opened the coconut without a problem. I’d found banana leaves at the Western Beef (what a weird name for a grocery store), so I tried making the dumplings the traditional way, but they were super leaky so I mixed old and new by wrapping them in leaves and then in foil. Turned out great!

Saltfish | Bacalao in tomato sauce

It seems that saltfish is the accompaniment par excellence for ducana. It shouldn’t be a surprise based on the name, but my god the fish as packaged had a lot of salt in it. After soaking the fish all day, the water was so saturated that there was a pile of salt at the bottom of the bowl. The dish turned out nice and surprisingly balanced: the aromatic veggies and sweet tomato sauce were good foils for the salty, flaky fish. (Kinda crazy that given the island’s stature in the middle of nice warm waters presumably full of wonderful fish, they import preserved fish from thousands of miles away.

Chop up | Spinach and zucchini

A basic dish of boiled spinach and squash, some nice greenery to lighten up the heavier stuff. Also served with some steamed pumpkin.

Antigua Kiss | Recipe

We also try to drink appropriately for each country. Lauren did some assiduous research and found this drink. Tastes kinda like a melted popsicle, so who am I to complain?

All in all, pretty good! I could even see making the saltfish again, although the ducana was pretty intensely sweet to make on a regular basis.

We’re off next weekend due to Labor Day travels. The next meal is Argentina — good thing I own a grill.

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