7 articles Articles posted in Grenada

Coconut Sashimi


I never realized how similar coconut flesh and raw fish were texturally until I tried coconut sashimi for the first time. A friend first introduced me to this when we lived in Grenada (and she first learned about it from watching Korean dramas!), where coconuts are available and abundant year-round. We’d bring empty bottles to the market downtown with us and get them filled up with fresh coconut water. After the coconuts were emptied, we’d ask the coconut man to chop up the coconuts for us and take them home to scoop out the sweet, succulent flesh (or we’d eat them right there with makeshift spoons chopped off from the sides of the coconuts).


The texture of the meat can vary depending on the age of the coconut. Younger coconuts will often have more juice and less meat. The meat it does have is more of a “jelly” that just barely clings to the shell. Slightly older coconuts will have a bit less juice, but firmer, thicker meat. These meatier coconuts are perfect for making coconut sashimi.

In the US, you can usually find fresh coconuts at any Asian market. They don’t normally have the outer skin anymore and usually resemble little cones that have been put through a giant pencil sharpener. It’s a little harder to tell how old exactly the coconuts are, but they will do just fine for making sashimi. I eat coconut sashimi exactly as I would eat regular sashimi — with a good quality soy sauce and wasabi. This might be a great vegan substitute for sashimi for any of your health-conscious friends or for satisfying a sushi craving for those who might be pregnant. I haven’t tried it other ways yet, but I’m excited to see how it might taste as nigiri or ceviche (maybe with some avocado!).

Oil Down: Grenada’s National Dish

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There’s nothing glamorous or refined about oil down; it’s a humble dish from a humble country. On this small Caribbean island, where hard-working locals have to deal with limited freshwater, seasonal rainfall, and natural disasters, and where the majority of its food is imported from the US and neighboring islands, Grenadians are proud to claim oil down as their own.

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The majority of the locals here are of African origin, the descendants of slaves brought over to work on European-owned plantations. Although Grenada became an independent country in 1974, it has retained an identity deeply rooted in European culture. Many street names, neighborhoods, and bays (Mont Tout, Carenage, Morne Rouge) have French influence, while the currency (Eastern Caribbean dollar) pays tribute to the queen of England, and British English is taught in schools. As a result, the local customs, language, food, religion, and architecture are a rich blend of each of these different influences, each lending a unique flavor to the culture of Grenada.

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Although many things in Grenada have been influenced by the Europeans over the years, oil down remains something purely Grenadian. No imported spices or seasonings, no choice cuts of meat here. This one-pot meal is made up of local veggies, “provisions” (the local term for starchy roots, tubers, and bananas that fill you up), salted meat, and aromatic seasoning —  all easily accessible, affordable ingredients in Grenada. All these components are combined in a large pot and cooked down in coconut milk over an open fire. In fact, the name of the dish comes from the coconut oils released from the coconut milk as it simmers and is absorbed by the other ingredients.

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Oil down is comfort food at its Caribbean best. And of course, like any comfort food, mom or grandma always makes the best version! I was fortunate to have gotten to know someone local to the island whom I could ask to teach me how to make this dish. During my time in Grenada, I frequented the public market in St. George’s often enough that I became friends with a lot of my favorite vendors there. In particular, I ordered so much handmade jewelry from Billy that we were soon on a first-name basis. I’d stand there and watch him make jewelry some days, we’d haggle good-naturedly over different pieces, and when my friends and I had heavy bags filled with mangoes and bananas from the market, we’d leave them with Billy as we finished our shopping in town. We even spent an afternoon with Billy and his friends trekking through the rainforest, as he showed us where he collects his seeds for jewelry-making. So, it didn’t take too much convincing when I asked Billy to show me how to make oil down.

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Our day began at the market where Billy and his friends showed us the ingredients we’d need for making this dish. After picking up all these items, we lugged everything (including a huge pot) to the beach to begin our cookout. When your meal needs time to simmer, the beach is the best place to wait!

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While this dish is relatively easy to make (throw everything in a pot and let it simmer!), it usually turns into an all-day event. Because it tastes best cooked over an open flame, families will often make oil down at the beach, at sporting events, at hashes (organized, weekly hikes around the island), or any place where you need to feed a large group of people. And if you know Grenadians, they love to lime (a Grenadian term for something like “chilling”). In fact, “oil down” actually refers to both the dish as well as the act or event of making it. An oil down typically involves families spending the whole day at the beach. Everybody pitches in to help, and as the food cooks, children will jump in the water, young boys will play soccer, moms will watch the babies, and the men will lounge around, liming. You can’t truly experience this dish without taking part in the making and sharing of it!

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I hope that by recording this recipe, I can pay tribute in some small way to Billy, to the friends I met on the island, and to the two years that my husband and I shared together so far away from home. Yes, Grenada is not in the media much (aside from the invasion by the US in the 80s), nor is it at the top of anybody’s must-see travel destinations (heck, I couldn’t even convince my sister to visit me while I was there!), but it has a simplicity and sincerity that I’ve grown to love and miss after I left just two months ago. The island’s only recently become more tourist-friendly, but many locals still don’t really know how to interact or deal with foreigners (they’ll often resort to either catcalling or brusqueness). But if you have a thick skin, an open mind, and are sure to mind your “morning,” “afternoon,” or “good nights,” you’ll find some of the friendliest, kindest people you’ll ever meet.

Oil down, in all its simple and unassuming nature, has really come to represent Grenada for me — something I can bring back home and remember the island by. At first glance, the dish doesn’t look like it has much to offer, and you may not quite know what to make of it. It’s not exactly a stew, nor a curry. And it’s lost a lot of its vibrant colors after simmering for so many hours. But if you’ll take the time to dig a little deeper, open up yourself, and give it a chance, you’ll find hidden beneath modest ingredients, the very heart and soul of a country and its people.

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A Hike Through the Rainforest + Mango Ice Cream


My friends and I took a hike through some of the towns and rainforest areas of Grenada last week. We brought along two local friends whom we met from our frequent trips downtown to the Spice Market to be our guides. We hopped on a local bus, and because of some miscommunication, ended up walking a great deal more than we had signed up for. A word of advice: never believe a Grenadian when he tells you there’s only one more hill to climb. He really means one hill before the the next hill…before the one after that. And then five more.

Fortunately, aching limbs and tired bodies weren’t the only things we got out of the hike though. Because we ended up walking to the rainforest (instead of riding the bus), we had the chance to see life in Grenada through the eyes of a local. Grenada is such a small island, our guides knew practically every person we met along the way! As we walked, I soon realized that walking through Grenada is very much like taking a stroll through a fruit garden.



We passed by banana plantations and also saw several banana trees up close.


We saw papaya trees heavy with fruit that were getting ripe for picking.


We also saw many goats like this one that probably provides milk for a family, and we saw a man tending a callaloo garden (callaloo is used much like spinach here!).


I tasted a cashew fruit for the very first time and was surprised to find that it was sweet, juicy, and delicious!


We passed by lemongrass and picked a few leaves to smell the fragrance.


And of course, what’s a trip to the rainforest without seeing monkeys?! On the right is a wandering fish market that sells fish from the back of a pick-up truck.


We also saw plenty of cocoa trees along the way. This is a cocoa pod filled with cocoa beans. The sweet pulp can be sucked off, and then the beans are fermented and dried in the sun to make chocolate.


A cabbage garden in front of a local Grenadian house.


And aside from bananas, mangoes are the most plentiful fruit here in Grenada! You’ll find mango trees in backyards, on the side of the roads, in the rainforest…everywhere.

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So what to do with all those mangoes? Make mango ice cream! The following recipe uses mango as the main fruit, but it could easily be substituted for your favorite tropical fruit — soursop, durian, jackfruit. Anything that turns creamy and soft would be perfect for this recipe.


Mango Ice Cream
Yield: 1.5 quarts

4-5 mangoes (about 4 cups of pulp)
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/4 c. whole milk
3/4 can condensed milk
juice from 2 small limes

1. Peel the mangoes and puree the pulp into a smooth consistency. Remove any strands of fiber that you might see.

2. Stir in the heavy cream, milk, and condensed milk into the mango puree.

3. Squeeze in the juice of 2 limes. Mix thoroughly.

4. Pour into an ice cream maker and follow directions or follow David Lebovitz’s method for making ice cream without a machine. The condensed milk, heavy cream, and whole milk really help to prevent the mixture from turning icy or freezing rock solid. You can also pour the mixture into popsicle molds to make creamy mango-sicles!






Steamed Land Crabs with Carib Beer

I found these land crabs at the market downtown in St. George’s one day when I was down there buying souvenirs with friends. They were sold by the bunch, about 4-5 to each bunch, still squirming around on the ground. Since these were land crabs, they stayed alive the whole ride home, and even throughout the day. I kept them back on my balcony, just in case. The locals make a Caribbean crab and dumpling curry with the crabs, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the floury dumplings and overwhelming curry flavor, so I decided just to steam them with some local beer. Here’s how to cook and prepare them.

Steamed Land Crabs with Carib Beer
serves 2

4-5 small land crabs
2 bottles beer (Carib or other brand)
1 bunch scallions
5-inch chunk of ginger, sliced thickly

1. Soak the crabs in water to clean them. They are still alive, so be very careful. I kept them tied up so I wouldn’t get pinched.

2. Using tongs, clean off what you can of the crabs. I held the crabs with tongs in one hand while I used chopsticks and a sponge to scrub in the other.

3. Meanwhile, lay the stalks of scallions in the pot after you’ve rinsed them. Lay the slice of ginger down too. Pour the beer over the scallions and ginger.

4. Once it starts to boil, place your crabs in the pot and cover.

5. Let it steam for about 20 minutes. The crabs should be orange when cooked.

6. Take them out of the pot and wait until they are cool enough to handle. At this point, a lot of the legs fell off on their own.

7. Here’s how to remove the back from the body. Notice the triangular flap on the underside of the crab? Pull that up. Wedge your fingers in between the back shell and the body and pull firmly. The body should detach from the back shell, leaving all the goopy, yummy stuff inside.

8. I like to quarter the body to make picking out the meat easier.

Serve with dipping sauce of choice (drawn butter, lemon juice with salt + pepper, or my favorite – a combination of garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, and chili.) Happy cracking!