Cayman Islands chefs are creative and love to blend Caribbean flavors with international ones. This can be as simple as adding a little allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg to dishes or using calamansi, a citrus fruit popular in many island recipes.
From Seven Mile takeaway joints to upscale eateries, try these local Caribbean favorites that add rich flavor and cultural depth to your menu.
As a culinary mecca, the Cayman Islands offer plenty of bold island flavors to please discerning foodies. Spicy lionfish tacos, rich goat curry, and fresh-caught mahi mahi seasoned with herbs, citrus, and a generous helping of chile are just some of the many delectable dishes found on the menus of Caribbean restaurants throughout the islands.
The signature taste of Jamaican cuisine, jerk, is a wet or dry rub applied to meat and then smoked or grilled. The smoky, spicy seasoning is typically based on cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, garlic powder, and thyme. Still, the exact combination varies widely depending on the cook. The scotch bonnet chili peppers commonly used in jerk recipes pack an intense heat.
For those who prefer milder flavor profiles, a sweet marinade can be applied to the meat before it’s smoked or grilled. Tamarind, a fruit that’s native to Asia and northern Africa and grows in the Caribbean, is often added to these marinades to give the meat a sweet, sour flavor.
The bountiful seas surrounding the Cayman Islands are teeming with marine life, making them the perfect home to an array of traditional dishes that embody the region’s rich heritage. Turtle stew is a favorite, a delectable concoction of succulent turtle meat simmered in a medley of fresh vegetables and aromatic spices.
Indigenous Caribbean Islanders relied on various natural resources for their daily meals, including fruits, vegetables, and roots like callaloo, yams, papaya, and taro. Their cuisine quickly transformed when these islanders encountered settlers and visitors from other regions. They incorporated ingredients like rice and beans from Asia, citrus fruits from Spain, and herbs and spices from India, Africa, and Europe. Peppers such as the fiery Scotch bonnet also became indispensable to Caribbean cooking, adding a smoky depth and spicy zing to dishes.
The Native Arawak, Carib, and Taino Indians hunted and gathered seafood and other natural resources to provide for their families, and the practice continues today. Many restaurants in Grand Cayman feature sustainable practices that ensure the preservation of marine life. By choosing establishments that support these values, you’ll be able to savor the flavors of island cuisine with a clear conscience.
Throughout the Caribbean, life moves more leisurely, and this aesthetic extends to kitchen prep, with dishes being simmered for more decadent flavors. The region is also home to a profusion of exotic tropical ingredients that, like the native ackee and breadfruit, star in many island dishes. But the flavors imparted by successive waves of settlers add to the rich stew of Caribbean cuisine. Herbs and spices like scotch bonnet, curry, and mojo abound, while coconut milk is essential in a host of island dishes.
Seafood is big in Cayman, especially fresh fish and conch. You’ll find it in many island restaurants, including the upscale Grand Old House, where conch fritters are beer-battered and served with a delicious jerk aioli. The restaurant is also famous for its braised conch stew, a popular lunch or dinner entree with lemongrass rice, coconut jus, scotch bonnet, and plantain.
For a less upscale but equally tasty conch dish, head to the waterfront Macabuca or Rackam’s in George Town, where conch meat is finely chopped, mixed with breadcrumbs and fried until crispy and golden brown. You can also enjoy the cakes at the casual beachfront mecca of Rum Point Club, where they are paired with a refreshing Caribbean-style coleslaw and moreish tartar sauce.
While sugar-sand beaches and crystal clear water might be the Caribbean’s main attractions, its cuisine is just as impressive. A true culinary melting pot, Caribbean food has African, Chinese, Indian, and European cooking styles melded with the region’s abundant tropical ingredients.
Exotic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices grow freely across the Caribbean islands, making for a heady profusion of fresh and flavorful dishes. Caribbean staples include ackee, breadfruit, carambola, Caribbean yams, cassava, guava, pigeon peas, conch, and sorrel, as well as spices like thyme, ginger, turmeric, garlic, chili pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
The Caribbean’s original Native populations combined these indigenous ingredients with spices, flavors, and cooking techniques brought to the islands by enslaved Africans, Europeans, and other immigrants. According to a Cancer Wellness expert, the result is a rich and textured cuisine with a distinct taste.
Seafood is famous throughout the Caribbean, and each island boasts a signature seafood dish. Caribbean chefs also use a variety of meats and chicken, including jerk chicken, curried chicken, stewed oxtails, and grilled chicken. Caribbean veggies and roots are also popular in meals, such as callaloo, a hearty green soup made with taro leaf, kale, collards, and yams. Other common Caribbean ingredients include bananas, plantains, mangoes, and tamarinds. This rich, textured cuisine also consists of various sweet and savory sauces.