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Cou-Cou and Flying Fish – Barbados National Dish – Day 28/Dish 14

February 3, 2010

We had a long sail from Bangladesh to Barbados!  It goes to show how valuable the Suez Canal is to industry and travel that we can avoid the added time needed to navigate all the way around Africa.  We even skirted one terrible storm near the Cape Verde Islands as we started to cross the Atlantic Ocean west of Mauritania!  We have made this crossing before when we visited Antigua and Barbuda and I suspect we will return many times.

I get that familiar home feeling when I am in the Caribbean.  Something about the warm breezes and aquamarine waters makes me very calm and tranquil.  Barbados is in the southernmost Lesser Antilles near Grenada.  These islands have the distinct geographic beauty of straddling the entrance to the Caribbean Sea and the deep and dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  The contrast is heady and the view is breathtaking.  It is no wonder that people who come here often don’t wish to leave.

Barbados was named for its fig trees whose branches give it a bearded appearance, thus earning it’s original name Los Barbados “The Bearded One”.  Barbados has a similar history to many of the Islands with battles between natives and European Settlers, Slave trading and Piracy.  However, there are several things that are unique to Barbados.  One such feature is in the architecture.  Chattel Houses are a unique fixture of the Island. Chattel means “a man’s possessions” and thus the homes were moveable, often built on blocks and thus able to be relocated if the owner moved.  They are an iconic part of the islands history.  Another interesting fact about Barbados is that it is home to the only accredited IVF (In-vitro Fertilization) Clinic in the Caribbean.  Opened in 2002, it enjoys a very high success rate among patients. 

Connoisseurs of fine Rums are familiar with the 300 year old Mt. Gay Rum.  This delicious liquor is from Barbados and can be found throughout much of the Western World. 

And of course there is the ever present seaside.  Sometimes acting like an enemy during hurricane season, but always a source of food and employment, the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea have regularly given up their produce to the fisherman of Barbados.  Seafood has graced the plates of everyone from slaves to their British masters, to the tourists and locals of today.

Cultural heritage plays a keen role in the food, music and culture of the island.  Calypso music and dancing to Soca Beats are good examples of Afro-Caribbean traditions found in Barbados.

Barbados National Dish is Cou-Cou and Flying Fish.  This is another perfect example of a combination of local culinary product and ancestral recipes combining to define a new culture.  Cou-Cou is a dish with roots in Western Africa and goes by many names.  We last saw it as Fungee’ in Antigua and Barbuda.  It can be compared to Fu Fu from various nations in Africa (see link for description)  Similar to staple dishes such as rice and porridges from all around the world, it provides a hearty filling base to a robust gravy made when preparing the flying fish.  The Flying Fish is the National Fish and is found throughout the waters of Barbados and the Leewards.

Unfortunately for me I was unable to obtain any flying fish.  And so I had to improvise.  I would love to cook the actual fish, since nothing makes me happier than a belly full of fish.  If anyone in the Charlotte NC area has any ideas on how to get these fish I will cook a supplemental entry for this dish.  As it is I prepared simple grilled Red Snapper, another local seafood product in Barbados. 

From start to finish, this meal takes less than a half hour to make.  You will however get a good wrist workout when cooking the corn meal in the pot and stirring it with the wooden spoon (cricket bat shaped).  I give it a 2 for difficulty. 



Cou-Cou Recipe


Appearance: 2 out of 5

Aroma: 3 out of 5

Flavor: 2 out of 5*

Total: 7 out of 15

*This dish is supposed to be served with a gravy made with Flying Fish, herbs, tomatoes etc.  It stands on the quality of the gravy to make the Cou-Cou taste great.  Since I did not make the gravy, I did not enjoy the rather bland Cou-Cou.  I also do not care for Okra in general so it does not help that it is bound with Okra paste and Okra pieces.  I ate it anyway since I will try almost anything at least once…


2 cups yellow cornmeal

1/2 pound fresh okra or 1 package frozen cut okra

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter or margarine

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups water


Clean and wash okra.

Dice all but 6.

Add 3 cups of water to a large saucepan. Add salt. Boil. Add diced and whole okra. Boil okra for 5-8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Save whole okra aside for garnish. Measure 2 cups of liquid from the cooked okra to use for cooking your cou-cou.\

Mix cornmeal in a large bowl with enough cold water to moisten and blend it together. Stir the cornmeal slowly into the reserved liquid and okra in the pot. Use a wooden spoon to mix together. Return pot to stove over medium heat and continue to stir okra and cornmeal. Cook and stir about 5-10 minutes or until the mixture is thick and lifts off the pot.

Insert wooden spoon into center of the cou-cou. If spoon stands up in the pot and is easily removed from cornmeal, your cou-cou is done. Cou-cou should be firm when it’s done. If the cou-cou is loose and creamy looking, you have used too much water. If too much water is used, let cou-cou stand uncovered over low heat to “dry out.” When Cou-Cou is done, turn the entire mixture into a buttered serving bowl and garnish with whole okra. Serve with sauce made of steamed codfish or Frizz Fish and cucumber salad.


Simple Grilled Caribbean Red Snapper


Serve any number of people by multiplying this recipe by number of guests

1- 6 oz portion of Red Snapper Fillet Skin On

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

½ tsp Crushed Pepper

½ tsp Dried or fresh Dill Leaves chopped

1 tsp lemon juice


Lightly coat the fish with the Lemon Juice

Season with Salt and Pepper and Dill being careful to not overseason(this fish is yummy by itself)

Brush with clarified or melted butter.

Grill on 350-375Farenheit for 4 minutes per side or until fully cooked and flaky.

Additional Sources on Barbados:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2010 2:15 pm

    It is a shame that you did not get any fresh flying fish. It has a lovely flavor. Unfortunately for Barbados many of the schools of flying fish have gravitated to the south, and are now found in abundance off the coast of Trinidad.

    • February 7, 2010 2:41 pm

      I agree, it is one of the challenges of being landlocked…
      I can only do so much with the produce I can get locally. If I ever get the chance to buy some real flying fish I will recook this dish and amend the posting. Until then I can only dream wistfully of great fresh seafood stews.

      Thanks for your comment…

  2. January 10, 2012 5:52 pm

    barbados food look good but i think that it might shit me

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