Decoding Caymans Most Colourful Terms
Decoding Cayman's Most Colourful Terms
This is the only guide you'll need to find that elusive ingredient or decode a Caribbean recipe or menu. Once you know the lingo, the culinary possibilities are endless! Enjoy Cayman's culinary culture.
Ackee: The ackee fruit is bright red and when ripe, it bursts open to reveal three large black seeds and bright yellow flesh that tastes and looks similar to scrambled eggs. It is particularly popular as a breakfast food. Ackee is poisonous if the seeds are eaten or if it is consumed before it is fully mature. Never open an ackee pod; it will open itself when it is ripe and no longer poisonous.
Bammy: Caymanians pronounce it as Bawmie. It is usually made from grated cassava that has been wrung of its starch, slightly dried (often in the sun), moistened with a bit of water or other liquid, seasoned with salt and slowly fried in very little oil. Looks similar to a potato cake but tastes starchier. Not unique to Cayman but happily adopted. This was often eaten with Turtle stew or eaten like bread. It was not used to wrap and eat food – like in a sandwich.
Breadfruit: Despite its name, breadfruit does not have anything to do with bread. Generally breadfruit is used in the same way as potato, so you will often find it in stews or diced and roasted. It is also used in salads. Breadfruit can only be eaten when cooked and can be used in place of any starchy vegetable, rice or pasta. Breadfruit is picked and eaten before it ripens and is typically served baked, grilled, fried, boiled or roasted.
Callalloo: The large, edible green leaves of the taro root, popular in the Caribbean. It is cooked as one would prepare turnip greens or collard greens.
Cayman Style: A food preparation technique. Usually the item (fish, chicken, shrimp, lobster) is lightly breaded, pan fried or sautéed and tossed in a light tomato sauce with sweet peppers and onions.
Coconut Milk: As the name implies, this is the milk/juice of a coconut. Coconut milk is often used in Caribbean cooking. It can be an exotic touch to desserts or a key ingredient in a pina colada.
Codfish: A popular ingredient in Caribbean cuisine, saltfish (or codfish) is simply that — salted, dried fish, usually cod, though other fish (such as mackerel) can be used. Saltfish/codfish is an integral ingredient in a popular Cayman dish “Ackee & Codfish”.
Conch: This mollusc, pronounced “conk”, is encased in a beautiful, brightly coloured spiral shell. Conch is the second best-known edible snail and is widely found throughout the Caribbean. Its meat has a mild, sweet clam-like flavour. When preparing conch soup, stew, salad or, best of all, spicy conch fritters, the tough conch flesh is beaten into tender submission before cooking. Conch is sometimes erroneously referred to as whelk, which, though related, is a different species.
Marinated Conch: Fresh conch, thinly sliced and marinated usually in lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, onions and hot sauce.
Cracked Conch: Conch pounded out, breaded and fried.
Conch Fritters: Conch mixed with a bit of breading and spices, formed into balls and fried.
Conch Stew: The conch is first pounded and scalded to tenderise. It is then slow-cooked with coconut milk and ‘pie’ – flat flour dumplings. This is a very thick, rich and comforting stew.
Curried Goat: Chopped goat meat on the bone in a curry sauce.
Dolphin: Local name for mahi mahi. Not an actual mammal/dolphin.
Escovitch: A dish of Spanish origin (escabèche), lightly fried or poached fish covered with a spicy marinade served with vinegared (pickled) onions.
Festival: A Jamaican fritter. Corn meal and sugar mixed with liquid. It is then deep-fried.
Fish Tea: Similar to Rundown but usually more of a soup than a stew and often containing green bananas. Some feel it is not Caymanian and others feel it is but was not as well loved as the fish stew or fish dinner. Ingredients include fish, onions, peppers, salt and pepper. Some people like to make it from boiled fish heads.
Fritter: White flour, baking powder, salt, a little liquid and it is then pan fried. Round and flat.
Fruit Punch: A wonderfully sweet tropical drink. Orange juice, pineapple juice and grenadine.
Ginger Beer: Similar to ginger ale with a stronger ginger flavour. A key ingredient in a Dark and Stormy cocktail.
Heavy Cake: Cake made from cassava or yam, spices and coconut milk. A very dense, slightly sweet and spicy cake. Almost the consistency of bread pudding. Very Caymanian. It can be made with any kind of breadkind (Caribbean starchy foods) but cassava is the favourite. Main ingredients would be cassava, coconut milk, brown sugar and butter and seasoned with whatever was available that the cook liked at the time. In Jamaica they call something similar a ‘pudding’.
Jerk: A dry seasoning blend that originated in Jamaica and which is used primarily in the preparation of grilled meat. The ingredients can vary, depending on the cook, but Jamaican jerk blend is generally a combination of chilis, thyme, spices (such as cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves), garlic and onions. Jerk seasoning can be either rubbed directly onto meat, or blended with a liquid to create a marinade. In the Caribbean, the most common meats seasoned in this fashion are pork and chicken.
Mahi Mahi: Though this is actually a type of dolphin, it shouldn't be confused with the dolphin that is a mammal. To avoid this misunderstanding, the Hawaiian name, mahi mahi, is becoming more widespread. Also called dolphin-fish and dorado, mahi mahi is found in warm waters throughout the world. It is a moderately fat fish with firm, flavourful flesh. It ranges in weight from 3 to 45 pounds and can be purchased in steaks or fillets. Mahi mahi is best prepared simply, as in grilling or broiling.
Mannish Water: Made from yams and the head and foot of a goat. It is said to cure impotency, infertility and even the common cold. Not for the faint-hearted.
Oxtail: Oxtail braised in a broth with spices, including thyme. It usually includes fava or butter beans and comes as a warming, thick stew.
Plantain: a very large, firm variety of banana. Can be prepared in a number of ways including baking, frying, mashing. The plantain is also referred to as a "cooking banana" and is extremely popular in Caribbean countries. It has a mild flavour and is used very much as a potato would be in the United States. Often used as a side dish in the Caribbean, it is usually fried or baked. Not to be eaten raw!
Rice & Peas: Actually black beans and rice usually made with coconut milk and thyme.
Roti: An unleavened griddle-baked bread from India, usually made with whole wheat flour. The roti is finished over an open flame for 10 to 15 seconds, a technique that causes it to fill with steam and puff up like a balloon. Also called chapati and paratha. In the Caribbean this is usually filled with a selection of meats and starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, carrots) and spices (scotch bonnet, thyme, curry, etc).
Rundown: A slow-cooked stew made with coconut milk, breadfruit, cassava or yam (whatever starch the chef prefers), snapper (or again, whatever fish the chef prefers) and cornmeal dumplings all cooked slowly until the flavours meld. Several Caymanians I have spoken to consider this a new word for what they traditionally called Fish Stew or Fish Dinner. One person told me the word Rundown came from the Eastern Caribbean, via Jamaica to the Cayman Islands. The ingredients of Fish Stew or Fish Dinner are as follows: Fish, breadkind (starchy ground provisions), coconut milk, flour dumplings, onions and peppers.
Sorrel: Sorrel blooms in December when its deep red flower becomes an unrivaled floral decoration. Two to three weeks later the flowers are dried and then steeped in water to make a bright red drink that has a slightly tart taste. A traditional Caribbean holiday beverage.
Tamarind:The tamarind is the fruit of a tall shade tree native to Asia and northern Africa and widely grown in the Caribbean. The large (about 5” long) pods contain small seeds and a sour-sweet pulp that, when dried, becomes extremely sour. It is used to season full-flavoured foods such as chutneys, curry dishes and pickled fish. Additionally, tamarind is used to make a sweet syrup-flavoured drink. It is also a key ingredient in HP and Worcestershire sauce.
Turtle Stew/Steak: Turtle on the menu in the Cayman Islands is actual turtle meat. The Cayman Islands is home to one of the few, if not the only, turtle farms. Our farm breeds and raises Green turtles for release back into the wild as well as to supply turtle meat to the local market. Turtling was a long-time Caymanian tradition.
Wahoo: With a flavour often compared to that of albacore, the wahoo's moderate to high fat flesh is fine, white (with a little red) and slightly sweet. In fact, Hawaiians call this fish “ono”, which means “sweet”.
Whelk: This member of the gastropod branch of the mollusc family is a large marine snail. It has a beautiful spiraled shell and a rather tough but flavourful foot-like muscle. Whelk is naturally tough and must usually be tenderised by pounding. It benefits from brief, gentle cooking.