Be prepared to see food you have never seen before, hear words you have never heard before, and taste new tropical delicacies. That is the beauty of this great cultural adventure.
THE LOCAL DIET
You may hear Dominicans refer to what they call their “ground provisions“. This refers to their staple crops-dasheen, plantain, breadfruit etc. The national dish of Dominica was “mountain chicken” (aka frog legs) but is now callaloo soup. Dominicans also enjoy the national dish of Jamaica, ackee (fruit) and salt fish (codfish). The local diet in general is pretty carb heavy-lots of beans, rice, pasta, and starchy vegetables. For your protein you have the choice of chicken, fish, or eggs. If you want fresh fish, you can find it at the Portsmouth market or on the main road headed to Portsmouth. When the local fishermen arrive with the daily catch they will blow the conch shell. They tend to have tuna, red snapper, blue marlin or kingfish. They sell the fish whole for about 7-8 EC per pound. If you want the meat removed they will usually gut the fish for you but they may charge an extra dollar per pound. Fresh crawfish is sold when it is in season. You have to go into Portsmouth (around the market area) and ask around to find someone who sells crawfish. You can buy frozen shrimp at the local stores or through Malcom Stephens Meat Company (more info under “Grocery Shopping).
WHERE’S THE BEEF ?
Fresh beef can primarily be found at IGA Whitchurch Grocery Portsmouth branch and Save A Lot grocery in Roseau. You also have the option of buying the frozen beef which comes from the US in a tube shaped package. It can be found at Tina’s Grocery , Uncle Supermarket, and Picard Grocery. Beef, chicken and sausage can be purchased in bulk from Malcolm Stephens Meat Company in Roseau.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
What fresh fruits are available in Dominica ?
In abundance: Banana (yellow, green, red varieties), coconut, mangoes, papaya (pawpaw), guava, passion fruit, star fruit (carambola), lime, watermelon, soursop, breadfruit, oranges (green colored in Dominica), grapefruit, pineapple, sugar apple (not traditional apple but known as custard apple/sweet apple), tangerine, tamarind, pumpkin, plantain, and ackee.
Other local products that are available but not as abundant are lemons (not year round), apricot (not like US style), noni, sapodilla, grape, gooseberry, cherries etc.
Certain items are only available at IGA Whitchurch or Save A Lot grocery stores because they import goods–apples, strawberries/blueberries etc.
What vegetables are available in Dominica?
In abundance : onion, cucumber, tomato, yams, avocado (also called pear locally), dasheen, breadfruit, cassava, green beans, carrot, christophene, green onion, bell pepper, cabbage, eggplant, and lettuce.
* I clean my vegetables here with a 1:1 mixture of water (with a touch of dissolved salt) and 5% vinegar.
Eating the fresh fruits and vegetables of Dominica is bound to have a positive effect on your health. The local diet has been studied by scientists all over the world because Dominica tends have an abundant population of people that live well over 100. (Read more about Dominica’s centenarian population here ).
SPICES & HERBS
- Most spices/herbs you use in the US can be found here. The market has fresh cinnamon sticks, cocoa, ginger and rosemary.
- Fresh cilantro can be found at Save A Lot in Roseau on occasion. There is a local equivalent to cilantro called shado beni (chadon beni) or “choo choo”.
- Lemongrass grows wild in Picard. You can find it near Coconut Beach and along Robert Ross Blvd.
- Visit the “Spice Man” in Roseau. He has everything you need ! He even mixes his own rums.
Juice, juice, and more juice. Fresh juice is the way of the island and very refreshing in the heat. There are several vendors at the shacks that sell juice. Addisons juice shack is the only shack that offers juice with no added sugar. Surprisingly, iced tea is not big here. This will be an adjustment for all you southerners out there. Bottled water is available island wide. Most places do serve soft drinks, though diet drinks get scarce sometimes. Visit the soda factory on the way to Roseau to buy cases of the soft drinks that you like–Coke products or the local soda brand Quenchi. Cases are also sold at IGA, Uncle Supermarket, Astaphans, and Tina’s. You can get coffee at “The Cafe” on campus (upper seaside deck) or at Pic-N-Go by the Large Learning Lab. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts coffee can be found at Ms. Dee’s shack (#9), La Casa Espresso. Dominica has some wonderful specialty teas like chocolate tea and bush tea (herbals). The locals will instruct you on how to make them. Just ask ! Fresh cow’s milk can be found on occasion at Whitchurch IGA Portsmouth, Picard Grocery and Tina’s Grocery in Glanvilla. Goat milk, soy milk, and powdered milk are widely available.
Should I drink tap water ? Totally up to you. Per Ross, the local water has been deemed safe to drink. Some people prefer to bring a Brita pitcher with filters or water purifying system from the states. You also have the option of filling up your water bottles on campus. There are water fountains all over campus which are filtered, most of which have a spout on them for easy dispensing. To fill up gallon jugs there is a sink set up behind the Anatomy lab facing Robert Ross Blvd. Always, always keep extra water at home-not only during hurricane season, but all year round. The water gets discolored with heavy rain so you want to have fresh water to drink and brush your teeth with.
Updated September 2014