Traditional food of Antigua and Barbuda
While it’s clear to see and taste the varied, international influence on Antigua and Barbuda’s cuisine, the indigenous foods, drinks and treats of the twin-island paradise are surely something to savour. Have a look at the list below of some must-haves to sample on your visit!
- Fungee – a dish of boiled yellow cornmeal and okra, similar to polenta, that accompanies a number of soups, stews and meats. It is commonly served with stewed saltfish, stewed red herring or shad coated in cornmeal and fried. It is also delicious served with stewed or boiled fish (also called ‘fish water’) and alongside stewed or curried conch. One of the most popular pairings is Fungee and Pepperpot, which is the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda.
- Pepperpot – a flavourful and hearty stew of meat and vegetables, not to be confused with the dish of the same name that originates from Guyana. Antiguan pepperpot usually contains spinach, okra, eggplant, squash, peas, dumplings called ‘droppers’ or ‘spinners’ and meats such as salted pork, beef, and chicken. The dish is fairly versatile and so can be tailored to your tastes.
- Ducana – a sweet dumpling of sorts, made from grated sweet potatoes, grated coconut, sugar, flour, and spices. The batter is cooked traditionally in banana leaf packages in boiling water, similar to how a tamale is cooked. This is commonly eaten with stewed saltfish and chop-up.
- Saltfish and Chop-Up – salted cod is boiled and then cleaned and picked free of bones. This is then sauteed with onions, peppers, garlic, and tomato sauce. Chop-up is a mixture of mashed, boiled eggplant, spinach, and okra. There are variations of chop-up or, as some people call it, chop-chop made from boiled and crushed pumpkin or boiled and crushed green papaya sprinkled liberally with ground black pepper. Saltfish and chop-up also goes well with boiled or fried dumplings.
- Fried dumplings – bakes and Johnny cakes are also names given to the golden-fried rounds that are enjoyed with anything from saltfish to stewed corned beef; they are also found accompanying savoury plates of barbecued chicken and fried fish. They can even be enjoyed by themselves, hot out of the pan.
- Grilled Barbudan Lobster – fresh Barbudan spiny lobster is seasoned and grilled to perfection; usually accompanied by lemon-garlic butter and goes well with rice and peas, French fries, and garden salad. This dish is especially good when eaten on one of Barbuda’s beautiful beaches.
- Goat Water – a soup of stewed goat meat, flavoured with onions, peppers, garlic, thyme, clove, and hot pepper. Goes well with local Antiguan wood oven bread or fried dumplings.
- Conch Water – this pescatarian answer to goat water is a flavourful broth of tender pieces of conch and seasonings. This also goes well with local Antiguan wood oven bread or fried dumplings.
- Seasoned Rice – a one-pot meal of rice and peas (usually red kidney beans) seasoned with salted meats and chicken. This dish is available with or without pork.
- Wood Oven Bread & Cheese – locally made bread baked in a wood oven is an Antiguan treat that is enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or even dinner if you time it right. Locals have it with or without butter and (colloquially-called) “Cress” cheese or shop cheese – a processed cheddar cheese product.
- Raisin Bun and Cheese – these sweet, spiced buns are usually enjoyed split in half and slathered with butter and “Cress” or shop cheese – a processed cheddar cheese product.
- Bush Tea – don’t be put off by the word ‘bush’! This is the local name for herbal tea and refers to any and all local leaves, herbs or plants that are boiled or steeped in boiling water to make a tea. Sweeteners such as sugar and honey are optional.
- Ginger Beer – this local drink has no trace of alcohol in it, but it still packs a punch! Ginger beer is a spicy, ginger drink which also contains, sugar and essence. Some versions also include lime or lemon which gives an interesting twist. The amount of heat in the drink varies by the maker.
- Sorrel – although generally available all year round, this festive-coloured drink is mostly enjoyed around Christmastime. Made by boiling or steeping the petals of the sorrel or Roselle plant – a species of Hibiscus, the bright red liquid is often flavoured with ginger, cinnamon, clove, lime and can also be spiked with rum. The refreshing drink is pleasing to the eye as well as the tastebuds.
- Fruit Cake – another Christmas favourite and a traditional wedding cake staple, fruit cake or black cake or rum cake are all names for a dark, moist, boozy dessert. The basic ingredients are flour, sugar, eggs, butter, essence, cinnamon, ginger, and blended mixed, dried fruits that have been soaked in rum and/or wine.
- Coconut/Cake Tart – Sweetened, spiced shredded coconut encased in a spiced crust, crunchy at the edges and soft in the middle.