It should come as no surprise that the Caribbean island of St. Martin (also spelled St. Maarten) is a culinary capital throughout the region. After all, it is home to more than 300 restaurants and is an island jointly held between France and the Netherlands. Both countries are famous for their unique cuisines, but the island is also a place where the influences of Creole, Spanish and other island cuisines are easily detected.
Only 21 square miles, it features those few hundred restaurants and offers up everything from beach shack specialties and high end boulangeries to five-star resort eateries and local favorites providing a blend of the multicultural traditions of the island. Yet, if you are planning a holiday to St. Martin and you wish to enjoy the most iconic flavors, you’ll want to be sure to sample some of the traditional produce, the preferred techniques (such as outdoor cooking), and the friendly settings that make this a true “foodie” destination.
To be sure your visit introduces you to dishes and drinks, products and produce that are part of the island’s reputation as a culinary capital, let’s consider a few of the favorites or “must sample” classics.
This is planter’s punch, and you’ll find a huge array of recipes that are unique to the restaurant, bar or maker. A blend of white or old rum, orange juice, guava juice, pineapple juice, sugar cane syrup, bitters and spices, it is a real sensation. Sample a few of the different recipes and be sure you find your favorite.
This is a St. Martin classic and is the island’s most traditional liqueur. It is made of aged rum, wild guava berries and brown sugar. You will find that most islanders enjoy it during Christmas holidays, but they are more than willing to introduce you to it when you visit – even if it is the middle of summer.
This is another island classic and great debates will occur between whose recipe is superior. Typically involving pork ribs and a “secret” marinade, it will be a dish enjoyed fresh from the grill. You can find it at many beach shacks but also in high end restaurants where “haute” ingredients and techniques are in use.
Served as fritters, and a familiar appetizer, most islanders (including top ranked chefs) have their own way of making it. Most use the island’s abundant salted codfish as the main ingredient and a variety of vegetables and herbs that are added before frying. Again, you must make a point of sampling several recipes and finding your favorite.
These are served at almost any time and anywhere. You will find them at afternoon tea as well as the appetizer menus of top restaurants. They are small pastry pies filled with meat and a variety of spices. They are baked and served warm, and often disappear quickly.
Pigeon Peas Soup
Unusual and found mostly in the Caribbean, it involves the use of unique little dried peas known as pigeon peas and then a variety of vegetables, herbs and even a ham hock may be added. A lovely dish in the local restaurants, it is another must sample flavor.
Sweet Potato Pudding
This is a very popular dessert available at almost any restaurant or café. It is rich and full of flavor and often features a nice amount of the island’s delicious rum along with typical Caribbean spices.
Whether you are in a luxury villa with a private chef or you are handling your own cooking, there are just too many wonderful flavors and restaurants awaiting. You must be sure to head out to a few of the local favorites and fine dining establishments to really savor the aromas and flavors of the Caribbean’s culinary capital.