The true taste of St. Lucian cuisine  

CARIFESTA XIII is well underway and so too is the ninth staging of the Caribbean Junior Duelling Challenge (CJDC), which is the highlight of the annual Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference now in its fourth year.

The CJDC, which is being held in the CARIFESTA Village, got started with the Signature or National Dish round and was followed today by the Mystery Basket Round. The three highest scoring teams from these two rounds will advance to the finals on Saturday morning.

Coming out of the first round, Team Turks & Caicos topped the standings with 45.3 points, followed by St. Lucia with 44.7, the Cayman Islands on 42.3, St. Croix coming in fourth place with 41.8, closely followed by Dominica with 38.2, and Trinidad and Tobago with 37.6. Barbados and the Bahamas are separated by one point, having earned 35.6 and 34.6 points respectively, while Grenada has amassed a total of 31.8 points so far.

Teams have a chance to improve their points standing in the second round of the competition, in which they will be provided with a Mystery Basket of items from which they must prepare and present three plates to the panel of judges.

We’ll share details about the overall performance of the teams and tell you who emerged victorious in our next article.  As promised last time though, we continue our look at Caribbean cuisine, focusing this week on St. Lucian cuisine. The following is taken from the Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference Magazine 2016.

“Some say our national dish is “Green Fig & Saltfish”, others might say “Bouyon/One Pot” or even “Breadfruit & Smoked herring”, but what really is the true Saint Lucian cuisine?

Although we are known to love those dishes, the reality is that Saint Lucian cuisine is more complex than that. We have a fresh blend of West African, European and East Indian cuisine where various dishes have been adopted such as macaroni pie, stew chicken, rice and peas, fish broths and soups made of fresh locally produced vegetables. Those types of dishes are not only indigenous to St Lucia but other islands like Dominica, Jamaica, St Vincent and Trinidad have similar dishes using unique seasonings and vegetables such as spinach, potatoes, onions, turmeric, celery, thyme and coconut milk.

One thing that is famous for sure in Saint Lucia is what is popularly known as bouyon or One-Pot dish, which is usually cooked with chicken, fish, meat, bananas, dasheen and dumplings etc. Some people would even add a little handmade coconut milk and turmeric to enhance that unique colour, texture and flavour.

“I love my bakes and saltfish with cocoa tea in the morning” says Cynthia at the Castries Market.  John explains that “St Lucian cuisine is what my grandmother planted in the garden and cooked for us as kids. Foods like green figs, dasheene, yam, tanya and cooking that as a one pot with lentils and assorted herbs”.

The island boasts a variety of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa and cloves, among others that are used in a lot of pastry items, especially our popular cocoa tea.

Saint Lucians are known to love their meats which are normally stewed and browned to create a rich gravy, sometimes served over ground provisions or rice.  As a result of Saint Lucia’s East Indian influence, curry is widely used, but is not as popular as in countries like Trinidad & Tobago.

Although French, British and Indian culinary styles have heavily influenced the traditional methods of food preparation in St Lucia, what really stands out about our cuisine is the attention to detail.  Especially at hotels and restaurants, presentation is everything to a Saint Lucian chef.

Saint Lucia’s food is an incredible mix of cuisines, textures and styles from grilled chicken and bakes from a roadside stand, to a perfectly plated five course Mahi Mahi dinner.  What can top a freshly cut coconut after a long day’s hike or ending the week to the sounds of the Friday night jump-up in Gros Islet or the Fish fry in Anse La Raye, while enjoying grilled fish and other exotic seafood? It’s a wonderful array of the freshest island produce and seafood, exemplifying the true essence of farm to table.

Saint Lucia’s authentic culinary experience is set to become even more extraordinary over the next decade, as institutions make a determined effort to develop our culinary arts at the primary and secondary school levels.”

Source: (Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer peter@dcbarbados.com)

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