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Some Food From Guyana

While this is not really one of those draft posts awaiting publication, I thought as I was going on vacation out of the region, I could highlight a few dishes I have had recently that are part of my Guyanese foodie experience. I think I have previously delivered somewhat of an ode to my favourite Bajan foods, but this post is perhaps overdue.

Guyanese Fish Cake

I have made reference to fish cakes before, in talking about the Trini snack accra, the Bajan fish cake which is very similar (both made of salt fish) and I believe I posteda picture of a fish cake from Suriname, which perhaps speaks to the Javanese roots of that country. I ordered in lunch recently from Windjammer‘s lunch specials and the meal of the day was rice, dhal and fish cakes. Hmmm. I hadn’t heard of Guyanese fishcakes before, so I was intrigued. Was it going to be like accra, Bajan, Surinamese or those sometimes overly moist or dense Thai cakes? The Guyanese fishcake (or at least Windjammer’s version) seems to be made from fresh, not salted fish, and is a moist, well-seasoned mixture of mostly fish (not too much batter), deep fried. Despite it being fresh fish, the seasonings were familiar, common to the Caribbean, with a hint of the Guyanese married man’s pork or sweet basil. I liked these. Even though they weren’t nice and doughy like my accra. But for eating with rice, dhal and callaloo (spinach here, not the Trini callaloo) it was excellent.

Fish and (Plantain) Chips

Now, fried plantain in various forms is quite common throughout the region. We have twice-cooked green plantains from our latinamerican neighbours, fried ripe (oh so deliciously caramelised) plantains and of course the ubiquitous plantain chips (thinly sliced plantain deep-fried and salted crisps). But while normally I’d envision fish’n chips as being fish with chips made of potato, fried sticks of plantain seem to be popular here. The first time I had it I was unsure. The texture is not as soft as potato, and it is a bit drier, but I am getting a taste for it. It probably needs the ketchup (I have mentioned before that Guyanese love ketchup – not that Trinis aren’t known for slathering it over pizza…) but I don’t like chips and ketchup. Maybe some other sauce or condiment. However, I still do like it as a change from the regular French (Belgian) fries that is the normal fast food fare.

In Barbados and Jamaica for example, the street grills serve up fried breadfruit as sides to their barbecue and fish. I like them a tad more seasoned, but again, a nice alternative to potato. And I probably just need some sauce to go with them. And the fish? Seasoned so good, and when hot hot hot, it is great (I love fish). I think this is usually banga-mary (sp?) seasoned with some sweet basil, thyme and a hint of turmeric I believe (among other regular green seasonings). I do admit I will be enjoying some British battered fish and chips with mushy peas, but salt and vinegar cannot always compare to well seasoned Caribbean fried fish.

Waini River Chocolate Cake

Alright, Guyana didn’t invent chocolate cake. I know everyone has it. But this is chocolate cake made from cocoa produced by the Amerindians on the Waini River. IN GUYANA. And this cake served up in Oasis Cafe in Georgetown (post coming soon on that establishment) is my absolute favourite. I don’t know if it’s the rich cocoa taste. Or the fact that it is made with just the right touch of sweetness to balance the chocolate but not overpower the dark feel. Or maybe it’s just atmosphere. But no, I have had other chocolate cakes here and don’t care for them this much. This I have everytime I am in there for dessert. Ah. Waini River Chocolate Cake. Organic too.

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11 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. Enjoy your much needed holidays in the UK and especially the catching up with your friends ……
    Waini River Chocolate Cake is the favourite cake of the grand daughter as well?
    I understand she loves chocolate cake and also anything chocolate as well.
    Now one wonders………………Lilandra …….

    1. trinimom on July 11th, 2007 at 8:19 pm
  2. Yeah the Guyanese fish cake is very different and it is made with fresh fish. The first time I ordered fish cakes in B’dos I was surprised by what I got :) and but Bajan fish cakes are among my favourites. I like to have it hot with sour and lots of pepper.

    There was one time in Guyana when potatoes were either banned or the cost probhibitive and so all the fast food places started using green plantains to serve as chips along with chicken etc. It does go down better with ketchup.

    I do love a piece of fried bangamary. I miss having that here in B’dos. While we get the fish over here, it is frozen and not always that fresh.

    I am neither a chocolate or cake lover but when I do have the desire, I like to indulge is an excellent piece of chocolate cake – which is usually hard to come by but I am definitely going to follow your recommendation and try the Waini River Chocolate Cake.

    Thank you for this post!

    2. Cynthia on July 11th, 2007 at 10:20 pm
  3. Thanks for the info Cynthia. Actually, come to think of it, I do remember the parents talking about no potatoes in Guyana when I was younger (possibly threatening to send us there when we didn’t eat our local ground provisions…). But lack of access to ingredients inspires creativity. It’s an interesting process. Like making “apple” pie using christopene (cho-cho) because there were times when imported fruits like apples were restricted or expensive.

    3. chennette on July 11th, 2007 at 11:25 pm
  4. Do they use green or ripe plantains for the chips? I’d think that if you used an almost-ripe plantain, you could get a good texture going.

    Plantains + ketchup sounds nasty, though. I think some kind of spicy lime sauce (like you always run into at Thai places) would work better.

    5. clubsodaandsalt on July 13th, 2007 at 10:24 am
  5. I think they use green plantains, which is why it’s a bit dry. They serve the usual suspects as far as condiments go – ketchup, mayo, mustard, pepper sauce – I just don’t like those things for fries. Now a lime sauce sounds very interesting.

    6. chennette on July 13th, 2007 at 12:09 pm
  6. Fish cutlets were a staple in my child hood. I remember as a kid going to party, thinking they were meat, picking them with glee, sinking my teeth into them, and then realising they were fish…

    7. Cranky Putz on July 18th, 2007 at 9:29 am
  7. Chennette, some of the best fried plantains I have ever had were from Ghana – Kele Wele they called them. Kele Wele is plantains marinated in grated ginger, cayene pepper and salt then fried. If you like spice and heat, you’ll like those.

    8. Mani on August 7th, 2007 at 11:42 am
  8. That combination sounds like it would be interesting. And spiciness can’t hurt!

    9. chennette on August 7th, 2007 at 8:01 pm
  9. Fish cakes are delicious! My mother also made fried plantains with a pepper sauce rub!

    10. beenzzz on August 19th, 2007 at 1:35 pm
  10. this is the first time I heard of Guyanese fish cakes made from fresh fish. My family is from the country side in Guyana, and you to the sea/ creek/ river and haul home as much fish as you want…but our fish cakes and fish cakes from around the region was always made of Salt fish. It usually refereed to as SALT FISH CAKES in most places.

    While the taste of salt fish cant compare…I’m sure the fresh is much healthier for you

    11. Paul on January 30th, 2012 at 1:18 pm
  11. I can honestly say in 6 years I have never seen a Guyanese salt fish fritter/cake like there’s in the other West Indian countries. Have had many of these though made with fresh fish.

    12. Chennette on January 30th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

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