International Meals – Dominica

Lets get this out of the way right off the bat – Dominica is NOT the Dominican Republic.  People from the former are DomiNIcans, and from the latter are DoMINicans. We’ll do the Dominican Republic next week, but this week we are at the much smaller country of Dominica. Dominica was colonized by first the French, and then the British, and has been independent since the late 1970s.

Until recently, the national dish of Dominica was “mountain chicken.”  And by “chicken” they mean “frog.”  Apparently these frogs were so a) easy to catch and b) tasty, that they are now critically endangered.

So we’re not making that.

The NEW national dish of Dominica is Callaloo soup.  Callaloo is a term used all over the Caribbean.  It always refers to a leafy vegetable, but past that, what it ACTUALLY refers to can vary. In Jamaica, you’re probably getting amaranth leaves.  Puerto Rico, likely Xanthosoma.  And in Dominca, if you order callaloo, the most likely possibility is dasheen, or Taro leaves.  Which are quite toxic if not fully cooked.  So even though we could probably get them, we decided to go with spinach.

Callaloo from Dominica (the term can refer to either the leaves or the soup) often contains some sort of salted meat or seafood.  We found a recipe that substitutes Dungeness crabs for the local Caribbean ones, and since those can be had easily in Vancouver, a trip to Lobsterman was in order.

Say hello to my little friends:

Bucket 'o crabs

These are actually the little friends of the person ahead of me in line – I only bought two, because these suckers are pricey. We had the store murder them for us, since it was simpler, and we planned on cooking them within an hour of getting them home.  A quick toss in the steamer, and we had this:

Steamed crabs

I grew up in Baltimore – steamed crabs are a genetic predisposition.  It’s quite weird to me to be making crab in my kitchen as part of another dish, rather than picking it apart at a picnic table covered in newspaper.  That said…

…I grew in Baltimore.  I know how to pick crab.

Picking crab

I’m not as fast as the pros, but I get the job done.

To make the stew itself, you start by sautéing aromatics, including celery.  The recipe calls for a tablespoon of celery.  Good thing you can’t buy it in quantities smaller than a whole bunch.


Once the aromatics are soft, you toss in the spinach, some coconut milk and water, and let everything wilt down.

Spinach going into the pot

Once it’s wilted a bit, you give everything a zap with the immersion blender to get it smooth, and a lovely green color.  You also toss in a bunch of thyme, salt, pepper, a Scotch bonnet pepper, the crab, and the dumplings.

Stew with thyme and pepper

Dumplings, you ask?  When did you make dumplings?

Oh right – in addition to crab and vegetables, this stew also typically contains simple flour-and-water dumplings, cooked right in the broth. Ours were messy, and a bit too large.

Dumplings before cooking

But they are dumplings, and when we cooked them, they dumpled.

To go with the stew, we made Mastiff bread, which is a simple yeast raised bread that uses shortening for fat.  It’s not dissimilar from the Cuban bread we made a few weeks ago with lard.  The picture in the recipe we used showed lots of little round buns with elaborate shapes carved on them.  So we made round buns with SIMPLE slashes in the top.  (shown here before baking)

Buns before cooking

Turns out that the more common shape for a Mastiff, or “dollar bread” in Dominica would be cigar shaped, but these came out fine and were tasty.

An interminable 45 minutes later, the bread was cooked, the stew was ready, and the quick mango smoothies we whipped up were on the table.  And since this was LUNCH, the light is substantially better than our usually pictures.  Isn’t this gorgeous?

Dominican meal

It was absolutely DELICIOUS, too.  If you come to our house, this is one of the international meals you should ask us to recreate, because this soup is fantastic.  It’s rich with crab and coconut milk, spicy from the black and hot pepper, and the spinach gives it a great vegetable freshness.  It was perfect for mopping up with the soft bread.

This was an excellent meal. Hands down in the top tier of our efforts so far. And believe it or not, we only have one more “D” country to go.  Next week, we hop over from the island of the Dominicans to the island of the Dominicans, and then it’s on to the “E”s!

Dominican Callaloo Soup
Mastiff Bread

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