The immense cultural HubSpot that Barbados is, its flavours have always been the talk of the town. A vivid mixture of different tastes, Barbados cuisine is a melting pot of exceptional recipes originating from around the world, including, but not limited to, Africa, England, and India.
The ingredients for some of the best dishes around are local goods. Components like rice, peas, and many different varieties of fish and other seafood are easily available, and more importantly, fresh. It’s no wonder that all-time island favourites include fish cakes, chickpea rice, macaroni pie, conkies, and coconut turnovers. And someday, we will surely talk about all of them. But today, we will discover the thing of beauty that is the national dish of Barbados, the flying fish and coucou.
This amazing delicacy is a wholesome meal in its own right, and its recipe is something the locals are quite proud of. This two-part meal consists primarily of the fried or steamed flying fish, helped by a side of coucou. In addition to the authentic flavours, lime, spices and fresh vegetables add to its charm.
Traditionally served on Fridays or Saturdays, Flying Fish and Coucou is ranked number 3 on National Geographic’s Top 10 National Dishes. Without further ado, let’s take a sneak peek at the cooking process of this fabulous dish.
Although extremely popular in Barbados, as a dish, Coucou does not enjoy international fame. A cornmeal-based food similar to conkie, Coucou does not need a lot of effort to be prepared. One requires packaged cornmeal and okra. The former can be found at any supermarket, the latter, at any street vendor. Additionally, cooking equipment includes a coucou stick and a Calabash shell/round enamel bowl.
Once both the cornmeal and okra are in the pan, they will come together to create a porridge-like meal. You need to keep stirring with the coucou stick to achieve optimum fluffiness. If the meal gets too tough, add okra water to it. On the other hand, continue cooking it over a low flame if it gets too soft. Once the perfect texture is achieved, it is ready to be served.
Traditionally, Coucou has been served in an ovular form. To obtain this, the meal has to be placed in a round bowl or within a calabash shell. Calabash is a variant of the bottle gourd and is perfect for the job. Unlike revenge, Coucou is a dish that is best served hot. Eating it with spicy sauces adds a whole new level of flavour to the dish.
Now, they can’t actually fly, but the flying fish use their fins as propellors to glide through the waters at an increased pace. This tactic also helps them escape predators more efficiently. Barbados was once referred to as the ‘land of flying fish’ due to the abundance of the aforementioned species in its waters.
Although it is now not available in such overbearing quantity, the flying fish holds importance to the nation of Barbados. In addition to being the national dish, the flying fish can be found on the logo of the Barbados Tourism Authority, on the currency, in artwork, and even on the Barbados Coat of Arms. (It’s a dolphin and a pelican, where the dolphin represents the flying fish).
Flying fish is among the most desirable delicacies around town. Not only for a fine meal but when the nights are abuzz, flying fish is the choice of food for the nightlife aficionados and party animals. It can be either steamed or fried, with spices added as per your choice. In fact, you can even try the grilled version, although the fried flying fish variant goes best with the Coucou.
If you’re planning a trip to Barbados, it is advised that you bring a strong appetite around. This national dish will have you lick the bowl clean, and left wanting for more.