Barbados: Flying fish and cou-cou

We get the lowdown from Jason Joseph, head chef at Cobblers Cove Hotel, on Barbados' national dish: flying fish and cou-cou

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 3 Apr 2019, 10:05 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 13:27 BST

Preparing flying fish for sale at Bridgetown Fish Market, Barbados

Photograph by Alamy

What's your favourite Bajan dish?
For me, it's got to be flying fish and cou-cou. My culinary journey began in my grandma's kitchen when she taught me how to make this, the Bajan national dish.

Why is it the national dish?
Barbados has long been dubbed 'the land of the flying fish' because of the plentiful amount of these small, 'winged' fish found in the waters around our island. Flying fish actually glide rather than truly fly, they launch themselves into the air by beating their tail very fast and spreading their pectoral fins to use as wings.

How do you cook it? 
Each flying fish is deboned, soaked in salt and lime juice for about 10 minutes then patted dry and rubbed with Bajan seasoning, and left to marinate for an hour. They're then rolled up into a sausage-like shape and steamed in aromatic sauce — well, this is how I like to eat them, as it's how my grandma taught me. But people also like to coat them in seasoned flour and shallow fry them 'til they're just a little crisp.

What is cou-cou?
Cou-cou is made from cornmeal, okra, fresh herbs and butter. It's traditionally cooked using a cou-cou stick, which resembles a small cricket-bat-shaped wooden spoon — this is used to continuously stir the cou-cou to avoid any lumps. It's served with a sauce of tomato, onion, garlic and herbs, and, of course, the flying fish.

Where can you eat it?
All over the island but it's a traditional Saturday and Sunday dish. You'll find it at the Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry, at Baxters Road Fish Fry and in small shacks and eateries all across the island.


Published in the November 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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