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What is the National Dish of Barbados?

What is the National Dish of Barbados

Key Takeaways

National Dish of BarbadosCou-cou and Flying Fish
Main IngredientsCornmeal, okra, flying fish
AccompanimentsSpicy gravy, pickled cucumber salad
Cultural SignificanceSymbolizes the island’s history and local produce
Best Places to TryOistins Fish Fry, local Bajan eateries

Barbados, an enchanting island in the eastern Caribbean, is not only celebrated for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its unique and flavorful cuisine. Among the plethora of dishes that make up Bajan cuisine, one stands out as the national emblem of culinary delight: Cou-cou and Flying Fish.

What is Cou-cou and Flying Fish?

Cou-cou and Flying Fish is a dish deeply ingrained in the Bajan culture and culinary tradition. This dish isn’t just food on a plate; it’s a symbol of Barbadian identity and heritage. Let’s delve into what makes Cou-cou and Flying Fish an irreplaceable part of Barbados.

Ingredients of the National Dish

IngredientRole in the Dish
CornmealForms the base of Cou-cou
OkraAdds texture and flavor to Cou-cou
Flying FishMain protein, typically steamed or fried
Spices & HerbsEnhance the flavor profile
Bajan Pepper SauceOften added for heat

The Preparation

The making of Cou-cou involves a mixture of cornmeal and okra, which is stirred together with water and cooked until it reaches a firm, polenta-like consistency. The flying fish, which is abundant in the surrounding waters of Barbados, is either steamed or fried and served alongside the Cou-cou. The combination is usually topped with a spicy gravy and served with a side of pickled cucumber salad, adding a refreshing crunch to the meal.

Cultural Significance

The national dish of Barbados carries with it a story of the island’s history and its relationship with the sea. Flying fish were once so plentiful in the waters around Barbados that they became a staple, while cornmeal was a versatile and filling base introduced during the colonial era. Together, they represent a fusion of resources and influences, shaping a dish that resonates with every Bajan.

The Role in Bajan Society

  • National Identity: The dish is a source of pride and a culinary representation of national identity.
  • Historical Roots: Reflects the island’s adaptation and utilization of local resources.
  • Cultural Celebrations: A staple during festivals and national holidays.

Nutritional Value

Cou-cou and Flying Fish is not just a cultural staple but also a nutritious meal that combines protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. The flying fish is a good source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while the cornmeal and okra provide fiber and essential nutrients.

Nutritional Breakdown

ProteinMuscle repair and growth
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsHeart and brain health
FiberDigestive health
Vitamins & MineralsOverall well-being

Where to Find the Best Cou-cou and Flying Fish in Barbados

When visiting Barbados, tasting the national dish is a must. Here’s where you can find the most authentic and delicious Cou-cou and Flying Fish:

Top Spots to Enjoy the Dish

  1. Oistins Fish Fry: A lively market where fresh seafood is prepared before your eyes.
  2. Local Bajan Eateries: Small, family-run spots often serve the most traditional and flavorful dishes.
  3. Street Food Stalls: Experience the real Bajan flavors in a casual setting.

Cooking Your Own Cou-cou and Flying Fish

Interested in making the national dish of Barbados at home? Here’s a simplified list to get you started:

Ingredients List

  • Fresh flying fish fillets
  • Cornmeal
  • Okra slices
  • Water or broth
  • Lime juice
  • Fresh herbs and spices

Cooking Steps

  1. Clean and season the flying fish with lime juice and spices.
  2. Prepare the Cou-cou by cooking cornmeal and okra with water until thick.
  3. Cook the flying fish either by steaming or frying.
  4. Serve hot with a spicy gravy and a side of pickled vegetables.


The national dish of Barbados, Cou-cou and Flying Fish, is more than a meal; it is a celebration of Bajan heritage and gastronomy. Whether you choose to enjoy it on the sun-soaked shores of the island or attempt to recreate it in your kitchen, this dish is sure to transport you to the heart of Barbadian culture. Through its unique blend of ingredients and flavors, Cou-cou and Flying Fish embodies the spirit of Barbados, offering a taste of the island’s soul in every bite.