One of the most enjoyable parts of any Caribbean cruise is getting the chance to sample the different foods and local cuisines of the many islands and ports of call. There are certainly plenty of things to do in St. Maarten, but you’ll definitely want to take the time to enjoy a variety of delicious fare. You’ll soon realize that it’s no wonder that people travel from all over to visit the island and dine on local dishes influenced by a combination of French and Creole cooking.
Whether you’ve been to St. Maarten before, or are visiting with your family or friends for the first time, you’ll find a large host of dining options to suit any budget. After spending some time exploring the sights and shopping in St. Maarten, your only problem when seeking a place to eat isn’t where you will eat, but rather what to eat in St. Maarten — because there are so many excellent local dishes to choose from. Consider these 9 delicious foods to eat in St. Maarten, including two of St. Maarten’s national dishes — conch and dumplings, and callaloo soup.
1. Conch and Dumplings
This must-have dish is hot and spicy, and delivers a true taste of the Caribbean. The dish features local conch (a large sea snail) which is seasoned with various herbs and spices and cooked in a pressure cooker till it’s soft and succulent. The conch is accompanied by light and fluffy dumplings made with or without cornmeal, depending on the chef. To finish the dish, it is topped off with a savory gravy. Yum!
It’s fun to pronounce, but even more delicious to eat. This hearty soup is made with plenty of fresh greens such as kale, spinach and, of course, callaloo, a spinach-like vegetable. Other additions to the soup include pork, onions, and okra. The thick soup is seasoned with thyme, pepper and hot peppers.
3. Johnny Cakes
Often mistaken for pancakes, Johnnycakes are very similar to American pancakes except for the fact that they are made with cornmeal. Johnnycakes are so popular among residents in St. Maarten that they are served at breakfast, brunch and as a side dish during dinner. Also called journey cakes, they are smaller in size compared to their American counterparts and are slowly fried in corn oil, then served with honey, butter, syrup, or jam.
4. Codfish Fritters
The cod fish, also known as salt fish, is found all along the Caribbean. It’s enjoyed as a delicious fried fish fritter on many islands, with each island having its own variation for preparing the popular dish. On the island of St. Maarten, the fish is sautéed and mixed with chopped onion, celery, green pepper, thyme, tomato and hot sauce. It’s then blended with flour, milk, and egg yolk and deep-fried in hot corn oil.
5. St. Maarten Spare Ribs
At many of the barbecue shacks (called lolos) found across the island, you can find what might be the best spare ribs you will ever taste. Expertly cooked on the grill until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, the ribs are then slathered with a deliciously sweet, spicy, and savory barbecue sauce. The sauce recipe at the various lolos may vary slightly, as they are often traditional family recipes passed down from one generation to another.
Another popular and traditional St. Maarten food is locri — a simple yet delicious dish comprised of rice, chicken, a variety of vegetables, and plenty of seasonings. It’s all cooked together in one pot to let the flavors truly meld, resulting in an enjoyable and memorable experience of true St. Maarten cuisine. Think of it as a type of stir-fry dish or a Spanish paella.
7. Whelk Soup
Whelks are saltwater mollusks, smaller than conch but the perfect size to make a good meal. They can be prepared in many different dishes, and on St. Maarten, you’ll often find them in whelk soup. Soup recipes can vary, but the whelks are usually stewed in coconut milk or added to a stew of vegetables and seasonings. The snail adds wonderful flavor to the broth and delivers a unique and tasty experience.
8. Crabmeat-Stuffed Shells (Crab Backs)
This delectable treat features freshly cooked blue crabmeat, mixed with sautéed onion, tomato, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce. The mixture is placed back into the original crab shells, sprinkled with bread crumbs, and placed under the broiler before being served.
9. Guavaberry Liqueur
When you need something cold and refreshing to wash down all these amazing Caribbean foods, there’s nothing better than St. Maarten’s Guavaberry. This refreshing beverage is the national drink of both the French and Dutch sides of the island. It is made from the small guavaberry fruits that grow on the island and are used in a variety of mixed drinks and cocktails.
So when you stop at St. Maarten’s port of call while on your Caribbean cruise, be sure to seek out and try at least a few of the traditional island foods listed above. You’ll definitely be in for some amazing dining experiences!