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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dreaming of the French Caribbean While Traveling in Mainland France?

Look for One of the Many Mainland Restaurants 
Serving French-Créole Antillaise Cuisine.
from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan G. Newman
Updated September 2018.
   

The town of Saint Pierre in Martinique.
www.flickr.com/photos/jries/1793239573/
    
Cuisine Antillaise is the French - Créole cuisine of the French Caribbean island regions of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and the French-administered islands of St. Barts and Saint Martin.  French regions are somewhat similar to USA states or UK counties and, despite the distance, over 6,000 km (4,000 miles) from the French mainland; think of Hawaii and mainland USA. These islands are as much part of France as Paris; gendarmes direct the traffic there are croissants for breakfast and you have to pay in Euros.  


The green arrows indicate the French Caribbean islands.

By the number of restaurants offering Cuisine Antillaise in mainland France, it is undoubtedly the most popular of France’s islands’ cuisine and the one that I have enjoyed the most.

Your Créole Antillaise menu may offer:
   
 Accras de Morue Deep-fried cod fritters made from rehydrated cod. The cod used for this dish is hydrated salt cod.  Dried cod was a staple food that could be stored and transported before there were refrigerators, and the French Caribbean settlers imported it as a cheap protein to feed their slaves.   Salt cod has remained very popular in France and in her overseas departments and regions.  Accras de Morue will be on many mainland menus without any reference to their Caribbean origins.
        

Accra de Morue, Sauce Chien
The word chien does translate as a dog; however, this sauce has nothing whatsoever to do with do with dogs, and the origin of the name is lost. The sauce is a mildly spicy 100% vegetable dip.

Morue, dehydrated salt cod, also called in mainland France, Merluche and Stockfish, and is still, after hundreds of years, behind many French comfort foods,  Salt cod dishes will be on the menus of the best restaurants and bistros in mainland France with the most famous dishes called  Brandade de Morue and Brandade Nîmoise.

If you want fresh cod, then look on the menu for cabillaud or morue fraiche:
  
Cod: (Catalan  -  bacallà), (Dutch – kabeljauw), (German –- kabeljau, dorsch, merluzzo bianco), (Italian - baccalà),(Spanish  - bacalao, bacallà).
       
Colombo de Porc -  A pork stew made with a blend of spices associated with Tamil Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine.  The Colombo spice group includes coriander, turmeric, cumin, mustard, cloves, fenugreek, and pepper.
   
Fricassé de Lambis - Fried conch; the popular and tasty large sea snail, often called a clam, that is on menus all over the Caribbean.  The first fricassées were French stews made with chicken; however, that was originally.  Today fricassées are also made with veal, vegetables, other poultry, and shellfish, and that includes the conch of which there are many different types. The most usual conch seen on Caribbean menus is the Queen Conch,
         

The Queen Conch.
     
Ragout de Cabri Antillaise An Antillaise goat stew, usually served with rice.  Tasty Antillaise ragouts, stews, use fewer vegetables and different herbs and spices than mainland ragouts.  In modern French, a goat is a chèvre, and the word Cabri comes from Occitan, the French language of d’Oc brought to the islands by settlers, mostly from the region of Occitanie and Provence.  Apart from bringing their language, the Provencal settlers would also have also brought goats.  The southeastern part of France did not bring cow’s milk into their diet until the 20th century and are still famous for their many excellent goat's milk cheeses. Occitan or d’Oc is the language that lost out in the search for a single language to unite France; however, despite losing to out to modern French there are, still today, millions of French citizens who speak or understand some Occitan or one of its dialects alongside modern French.  Provencal and Nicoise have Occitan origins.
  
(The new French super-region of Occitanie was created on 1-1-2018 from the old regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Mid-Pyrénées).
   
Vivaneau Frit, Riz et Rondelles de Bananes Plantains -  Fried snapper served with rice and round slices of fried plantain cooking bananas.  The plantain cooking bananas used in this recipe are an essential part of many French-Créole dishes.  The vivaneau on the menu is most probably the silk snapper; also called the yellow-eyed (red) snapper.
    
 
Vivaneau - The Silk snapper
        
Gratin Chouchou à la Morue – A dish of chayote, also called custard marrow, and rehydrated cod, usually served as an entrée, the French first course.  For this dish, the recipe calls for the pale green to whitish vegetables to be baked like potatoes, and then after the skin is removed, mashed.  The mashed chayote will be mixed with the rehydrated cod, and baked until it browns, just before serving grated gruyere cheese may sometimes be sprinkled on top for a golden-brown gratiné finish.
         
Chayote originated in Mexico but is now a Caribbean staple, and fresh chayote is also served as a salad or as part of a mixed salad.  One of the chayote’s other French names is Cristophine, in honor of Christopher Columbus who brought the vegetable to Europe from Mexico.

The Chayote in the languages of France’s mainland neighbors:

(Catalan – xaiot, sequi),(Dutch - chayote),(German – chayote), (Italian - frutto chayote, chayote), (Spanish - chayote).
   

Chayote
www.flickr.com/photos/lacatholique/5194455316/
   
Blaff de Poisson –  Fish marinated in lime juice and then boiled or baked; sweet potatoes or yams traditionally accompany this dish.  With a menu listing like this ask what fish is being served.  Blaff may be made with almost any fish, white meat or shellfish and nearly all Créole Antillaise menus will include at least one dish of blaff.  All blaff dishes are marinated in lime before cooking, and the recipes come with accents of curry, and or coconut.
   

Blaff de poisson
www.flickr.com/photos/88832582@N08/8134575775/

Gateau Patate A French Créole cake based on the patate douce, sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are those purple to brown, and sometimes almost white, skinned tubers that often come with pointed ends; they have a white to yellow to orange flesh inside.  It was Christopher Columbus who brought the sweet potato to Spain from South America.  From Spain, the sweet potato quickly reached all of southern Europe where it grows well but it was not accepted as part of modern French cuisine until the mid-20th century.  (The potato reached Spain 40 years after Colombus when the area now called Peru when in1532, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire and claimed the region and potatoes for Spain).
  
Sweet potatoes.
 
The sweet potato in the languages of France mainland neighbors:

(Catalan – moniato. batata), (Dutch - zoete aardappel or bataat), (German - süsskartoffel, batate, weisse kartoffel), (Italian - patata dolce, batat), (Spanish- patata dulce).
   
Crêpes Flambée au Rhum - Crepes flambéed in rum.  The first crepes to be publicly flambéed in alcohol, according to tradition, were served to Great Britain’s Prince of Wales, in Monte Carlo, in 1896, by the chef Henri Charpentier.  The Prince was asked to name the dish, and chose the name the Crêpes Suzette;  that was in honor of an eight-year-old girl who accompanied her father, as the Prince’s dinner guest.

  

Crepes Flambé
       
Rum, with 40% alcohol, is made from distilled sugar cane, and France’s only AOC/AOP called Rhum Agricole is produced in Martinique.  Martinique is a leading exporter of cane sugar, and so there is plenty available for making rum.
   

AOC Rhum Martinique, six-years-old.
www.flickr.com/photos/saleg-w/11619781865/
  
Martinique rum producers offer both white and dark rums with the best rums matured in oak barrels.  When buying Rhum Agricole, look on the label for the age. Some rums may be labeled Rhum Vieux, old rum; however, the real age, if written at all, is written in years, as it is in the picture above.  The age is not necessarily in the large print and from my experience only buy rum that is over three-years-old.  The usual meanings of VSOP, VSOP, Napoleon, and XO, etc. when printed on the labels do not have the same meanings as they do for Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados; look for the written age.  All of the above is true, but at the same time, there are plenty of other rums from Guadeloupe and Martinique that do not have an AOP.  Many are excellent but try them before buying a case.
    
The differences in the Créole cuisines begin with the different herbs, spices, fish, and meats that were locally available.  To the local foods add the languages, traditions and cultural heritage brought by the French settlers, the slaves the French settlers brought from Africa, and later the indentured workers from India. 

French - Créole from Louisiana
and French – Créole from the French Antilles.
      
Travelers arriving from the USA quickly realize that the French - Créole Antillaise cuisine is distinctly different to the French - Créole cuisine of Louisiana.  That is not too surprising as Louisiana is 2,000 km (1,300 miles), from the French Caribbean.  However, that difference is nothing compared with the French Island regions of Réunion and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean; they are 13,000 km (9,000 miles) away from the French Caribbean and 9,000 km (5,000 miles) away from mainland France.  Even when a dish has the same French name the recipe can be very different as local ingredients take over.


The Créole language in the USA
    
In the USA, the largest French - Créole speaking group are the Haitian immigrants.  A Haitian Créole speaker and Louisiana Créole speaker will need a translator to talk to each other unless they speak in English or modern French.  Caribbean Haitian French - Créole cuisine is also markedly different to the Antillaise Créole cuisine due to the  

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