Caribbean food: historically delicious!

Popular West Indian dishes
A selection of popular West Indian dishes, including stew, curry and rice.
Image: David Loram
Source: Museum Victoria Caribbean Community Photographic Collection

Caribbean food is a vibrant fusion of cultural influences reflecting our rich and complex history.

The indigenous Caribs and Arawaks made bread, grew corn, cassava, sweet potatoes, arrowroot, tomatoes, chillies and other crops, and ate a wide variety of fruit, shellfish, turtle and game. The Arawaks, grilling their meat over open fires using frames of thin sticks called barbacoa, gave the world the word ‘barbeque’.

Sugar cane was the basis of the Caribbean economy and required intensive labour. European colonisers introduced many foods from around the world to supplement the local food sources: breadfruit, taro, ackees, okra, yams and plantains from Africa as well as salt fish and rice, to name just a few. Indentured workers from China and India brought their chow meins, curries, rotis and snack foods. West Indian cooks created many cross-cultural or ‘creolised’ dishes, which were eaten by everyone.

Caribbean recipes continue to evolve in Australia as West Indian immigrants experiment with local ingredients. For example, we now substitute spinach leaves when making our ‘crab and callaloo’ dish. We are passionate about passing down our food traditions for the next generation to enjoy!

Image Gallery

Cutters with doubles and souse Callaloo with spinach, crabs and spices Coo coo and fish; rice and peas Pone, pineapple up-side-down cake and sweetbread Serving coo coo at West Indian Cultural Day, 2008 The children got the best, the adults ate the rest