Since most of my work colleagues, including myself, grew wearisome of the monotonous routine, we decided to venture out for a recreational sojourn earlier this year. Even though we were bombarded with a deluge of unsolicited advice on where to go, we decided to reach a decision with a game of chance. Since we were five travel companions, we stripped 5 pieces of paper, jot down the name of our destination choice, folded them up, and tossed them together. The lot that we drew bore the name of the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis in West Indies. I was over myself with joy because I love long-haul flights, and the Caribbean is a dream destination for beach lovers like me.
Remarkably, soon upon landing, we gave in to our baser instincts and had our first meal at a local roadside eatery near our hotel, which is when I noticed that most of the gravies there actually hinted at Indian curries that we were used to consuming back in Dubai. My curiosity got the better of me and I got around to questioning the locals about how that was so, considering that the two cultures were poles apart… literally. I got to know that the immigrants that settled in St. Kitts and its neighboring islands in the 19th century, mostly hailed from the Bihar province in India. Therefore, most cuisines that we eat here are actually a stellar amalgamation of the African and Indian palette to capture the best of both worlds, reinvented to delight the taste buds of global travelers to this exotic location.
The tradition carried forward and with the use of spices that are also common to Indian cuisines, such as coriander, cumin, and coconut, the locals also adapted to the modified tastes, and hence today, many gravies that are available in the Caribbean region are a nod to their Indian ancestors. Here are some popular foods at St. Kitts, which have their roots in Indian culture:
An iconic staple prepared from scrumptiously spiced fried bread, called Bara, topped with a piquant and aromatic chickpea curry, Doubles are the ultimate Caribbean street food, eaten as a standalone meal or even as a snack. Indians who love their chickpea curries, would definitely love to delve in this fare so far away from home. Here’s how you can easily prepare this delicacy:
Wash chickpeas and soak them in water overnight. Strain the water and toss them in a pan. Add sliced onions, turmeric powder, and salt to the chickpeas and cook for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Put aside. In a separate pan, heat oil and sauté whole spices like cloves, cinnamon and cumin seeds along with black pepper until they disperse their aroma. Now, add chopped tomatoes and stir in garlic ginger paste. Keep stirring till a smooth consistency is achieved. Season with turmeric and chili powder to spice it all up and add the cooked chickpeas to the mixture. Simmer for about 5 minutes and garnish with coriander. Serve with a fried Indian bread. Delicious!
This fare takes your everyday veggies, the ones you probably don’t like eating, and transforms them into something so delicious and fragrant that you won’t be able to resist. This is the magic of fritters. Fritters can be prepared from any vegetable that comes to your mind. They can be a great lunch snack or even a delicious patty for your supper sandwich. The best part about Fritters is that you can pack just about anything that you have available at the moment in your kitchen, fold it all together and fry/bake. Voila!
If you are thinking that fritters are an amalgamation of all your nightmarish veggies, you are wrong! Because a fritter can be made as simple as with a single veggie dipped in a batter prepared from chickpea powder or as fancy as a Pizza by including meat and cheese to the mix. Just about anything you can think of. Does this ring a bell in your Desi mind? Hint: mixed veggie pakoras in the rain!!
Probably the most basic kinds of curries that can be found in the Islands of St. Kitts and in India as well is one incorporating potatoes. Potatoes are a globally famed staple and in the African countries they are utilized in a myriad ways, more than a typical Indian family can think of utilizing them. It is owing to the versatility of the vegetable itself, that it is used in sweet and salty dishes alike, creating marvelous gastronomic wonders in the process.
The Caribbean style potato curry is another fare that bears stark similarities to its Indian counterpart. It can easily be prepared by peeling and chopping off potatoes in to cubes, and boiling them until half done. In a separate pan, fry some chopped onions, tomatoes, and green chilies, mixed with tamarind, whole spices such as cardamom, cumin and cinnamon, and seasoned with salt, red chili flakes, black pepper, and turmeric powder. Toss in the potatoes. In the Caribbean region, the curry uses chicken or beef broth instead of water. Let it simmer for a while so the flavors blend in and your Caribbean style potato curry is ready.
Over time, we have witnessed that the migration of people from one part of the globe to other has created interesting food fusions, and the foods that are available in the Islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are no exception. If you are an avid traveler looking for authentic Indian tastes, instead of the amalgamated ones, there are authentic Indian restaurants in St. Kitts that can treat your taste buds to the flavor palates you have been yearning for.