This story is element of an ongoing sequence in honor of Black Heritage Month on the diversity, roots and evolution of Black cooking and cuisine in The usa.
When you assume of Caribbean food stuff, what do you imagine of? Jerk hen? Beef patties? Plantains, most likely? If which is the situation, you’re not wrong. But the tradition — and the meals — of the dozens of nations around the world and hundreds of islands in the Caribbean Sea is remarkably assorted and encompasses so substantially a lot more than that.
Caribbean food items is a reflection of its Indigineous, African and colonial roots. Beginning in the 15th century, islands of the Caribbean were being colonized by the Spanish, Dutch, French and English, who in convert brought enslaved people from West Africa to perform the sugar cane plantations. Immigrants from throughout Asia, specifically China and India, and the Center East also started to occupy the region. The culinary traditions from these cultures mingled throughout the islands and resulted in a multitude of regional cuisines.
That melange and ongoing evolution of Caribbean delicacies is showcased by married few Ria and Kevol Graham of Williamsburg’s KOKOMO.
“A great deal of people today don’t know just how varied the Caribbean can be. There are a great deal of cultures that variety of turned a melting pot equivalent to New York,” says Ria, who is Trinidadian. “Where it is really definitely expressed is by means of the food stuff. We try out to replicate that in the restaurant by earning it as various as we can in comparison to the actual Caribbean. We wished to reflect that and teach persons that it just isn’t just an Afro culture likely on there, there are many cultures that are embodied in everything that we do as West Indians.”
1 instance of the assorted origins of what is now regional delicacies is the Jamaican dish saltfish and ackee. In point, saltfish and ackee is the national dish of Jamaica, but neither of the principal factors of this dish are native to the island.
Ackee is a tropical fruit that was brought to the West Indies from West Africa in the course of the 18th century. It now grows across Jamaica, and the moment the fruit opens up, it’s harvested, canned and offered throughout the island as very well as exported.
Then there is saltfish. Also recognised as bacalao or salted cod, saltfish hails from Europe and was at first brought to the Carribean due to the fact it was closely preserved and lasted very well on extensive ship rides. Cod simply cannot be identified in the heat waters of the Caribbean, so the component have to still be imported from the North Atlantic.
Today, these two ingredients from different sections of the planet make up a signature dish of the nation that is indicative of the history and flavors of the Caribbean — specifically when they’re cooked together with bell pepper, onion, tomato, and, of program, some signature warmth courtesy of a Scotch bonnet pepper.
“Bacalao is really well known in the Latino-Caribbean tradition, in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In Jamaica, 1 of our most common dishes is bacalao, but we simply call it saltfish. So, that is how we tie individuals cultures collectively,” claims Kevol. Without a doubt, the national dish of St. Lucia is green fig and saltfish — produced with inexperienced bananas, not figs — even though Trinidadians take pleasure in saltfish bujol, a lively salad designed with rehydrated saltfish.
Saltfish and ackee, as well as Caribbean food stuff at massive, is continuing its evolution on U.S. shores. At KOKOMO, the Grahams serve their ackee on a flatbread and deliver in some of the Carribbean’s Latin influences. “Instead of saltfish, we did grilled shrimp, which is served with a tomato confit and a Scotch bonnet cilantro sauce, which is bringing in the Hispanic heritage that we have all over the Caribbean,” claims Ria. The flatbreads are also a nod to the restaurant’s area in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the pizza culture in New York Metropolis.
Kokomo’s Vegan Jamaican Curry Sauce Recipe
“We figured out a way to mix all different influences that occur to the Caribbean and merge that with the flatbread, which arrived out amazing,” says Ria. “For occasion, oxtail is a single of the most well-known dishes in Jamaica, and we place that on flatbread with some fried onions and tomato confit. One more instance is our rasta pasta flatbread. It can be got penne pasta and alfredo, but it is blended in with jerk seasoning, which offers it a quite effective style.”
In addition to flatbreads, KOKOMO often performs with Caribbean staples on its menu, from an all-American burger with a guava sauce to Canadian salmon with yuca mash.
The curry, of training course, also has a comparable twist. “We would not come to feel like an reliable [Caribbean] restaurant without having curry,” says Kevol. But relatively than heading with a standard curried goat, they instead swapped in lamb shank “as a nod to the Middle Jap vibe that we have heading during the Caribbean.”
No matter whether it’s oxtail on flatbreads, lamb curry or shrimp and ackee, Caribbean cooking both new and old is centered about a single matter: like, which the Grahams emphasize is the core of their restaurant. “The story of KOKOMO is an expression of our love for each individual other and like for the Caribbean, our adore for culinary arts and our love of bringing folks collectively,” Kevol states.
And like a fantastic love story, Caribbean food stuff completed proper requires time. Braising meat to make it tumble-off-the-bone tender and simmering sauces until finally the spices punch you in the facial area with their fragrances are integral aspects of the cuisine, which KOKOMO respects in the kitchen.
“We you should not take shortcuts and try out to elevate every single dish below to make people really feel like they’re having food items they’re common with but on another degree or by pairing it with a various dish. That’s how we stand out,” Kevol suggests.
“I think the Caribbean tradition has been safe,” he displays. “We want to adjust the narrative of how men and women perspective Caribbean meals.”