What to Eat in Antigua

Taste these local specialties on your next Caribbean getaway


 

Photo by Alison Ashton
 
Antigua’s 365 beaches aren’t the only things to savour on this Lesser Antilles island. Here, Caribbean flavours mix with the flare of African, British, Indian, French and Spanish cuisines to produce dishes like vibrant goat and seafood curries and rootsy island fare like ducana and Johnny Cakes. 
 
The Antiguan culinary scene wasn’t always so rich. Following colonization in the 17th century, much of the island was converted to monoculture sugar cane plantations. But, as sugar cane declined as an export commodity in the 1950s and 1960s, efforts were made to diversify Antigua’s agricultural pursuits and make the island more self-sufficient in terms of provisions. Chefs and gourmands have been the beneficiaries. 
 
Today, a broad range of aromatic spices are grown on the island, as well as fruits like Antiguan black pineapple (which is deliciously sweet) and a sumptuous array of vegetables. Island-raised goat and an abundance of seafood from the surrounding Atlantic and Caribbean waters provide additional fodder for the island’s signature dishes.
 
The following are some to try.           

Ducana 

This dense dumpling is made from grated sweet potato and sugar and is often spiced with nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon, then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled. It’s especially popular for lunch, or paired with fish and served on Good Friday. 

Where to taste it: Anywhere. Ducana is found à la carte at Antigua’s higher-end restaurants and on the chalkboard menus of mom-and-pop food stalls throughout the island.

Salt Fish

An Antiguan breakfast staple, salt fish reflects the influence of seafaring Basque fishermen who pioneered the practice of preserving fish with salt. Locals like to use salted cod, which is boiled, broken up and served with sautéed tomatoes, onions, garlic, green and red pepper and minced hot pepper

Where to taste it: Head to Hemingways Caribbean Cafe in St. John’s for fricassee of salt fish.

Pepperpot 

Antigua’s national dish, pepperpot is a rich stew that owes its origins to the Arawak, who were among the island’s earliest inhabitants. Made with pickled pork, salted beef, garlic, eggplant, squash, and a medley of other vegetables, pepperpot is usually served with fungi, a thick cornmeal paste mixed with boiled okra and then formed into balls. 

Where to taste it: Suga Beez Restaurant & Bar on Popeshead Street in St. John’s. 

Goat Water 

This is a hearty, traditional West Indian goat-meat soup. Commonly eaten on Saturday, goat water is usually seasoned with cloves, hot peppers and locally grown seasoning peppers. 

Where to taste it: Try classic Antiguan goat water at Miracle’s South Coast Restaurant & Bar in Bolans. 

Getting There: WestJet flies to Antigua twice a week from Toronto. 

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