Fruit picked from the tree, vegetables pulled from the ground, fish, uhh… fished from the ocean — the truth is, I never had a more well-rounded diet than when I lived in Martinique. Food in Martinique is its own thing, a rich mélange of West African, French, Indigenous, and South Asian flavours, foodstuffs, and cooking styles.
Local Food in Martinique
While you’ll be able to find French baguettes and American fast food, these clearly aren’t items included in the island’s traditional cuisine. So, what is?
Here are 10 of Martinique’s Créole favourites and seasonal specialties you’ll be dying to try *:
1. Pâtés Créoles
Think of these as miniature Jamaican patties French-ified. Instead of yellow flaky pastry, Martinicans use rough puff pastry filled with spicy minced pork. These little pockets of deliciousity are sold at markets for €2 for a half dozen, especially during the Christmas season when pork is king.
These pâtés can be sweet (with guava or banana jam filling) or savoury (with pork, chicken, conch or codfish filling). One of my fondest memories of Martinique is the man who sold them to collective taxi passengers and drivers in Fort-de-France. I can still hear his drawl: “Pâtés salés, sucrés! Pâtés salés, sucrés!”
Where to get it: Any market at Christmas; bakeries other times of the year
2. Chicken Colombo
That’s right, Martinique’s national dish shares a name with the largest city in Sri Lanka. But that’s no coincidence — thousands of indentured workers arrived in the Caribbean from all over South Asia after the abolition of slavery. Martinique still has a strong South Asian and Hindu community.
Colombo is the name of the spice mix used for the dish, but it isn’t limited to chicken. You can pretty much ‘colombo’ anything: marlin, vegetables, goat, even whole crabs at Easter, and it will be a tasty mother – shut yo’ mouth!
Colombo is served usually with rice, stewed beans or lentils, and légumes pays – plantains, taro root, yams, etc. – and is a simple yet delicious curry. Just don’t spill it any on anything you own, because it will stain.
Where to get it: Le Point de Vue in Sainte-Marie. This spot offers a beautiful view and tasty food that isn’t fussy — it’s made just how Mamie would make it.
Okay, I’m cheating on this one because bokits are actually from Guadeloupe. But it’s deep-fried bread, people, how could I not include it?! Basically, you cut that oily heart attack in half and fill it with your selection of meat or fish, eggs, cheese, avocado, crudites, sauce… and you’ve got yourself a bokit.
I’ve eaten bokits in Guadeloupe, Toronto, and London but none of these glorious sandwiches have been as worthy of a mouth-gasm as those found at Snack Boubou in Sainte-Anne.
Where to get it: Go out of your way to see Monsieur Boubou, you won’t regret it.
4. Mont-Blanc Cake
If you asked me to name one food in Martinique I miss the most, it would be this light, fluffy, coconut-y cake. The Mont-Blanc is a simple pound cake layered with a delicate coconut cream, dusted with shredded coconut snow, and hugged with ladyfinger biscuits.
It’s a huge fuss to make and a good one is hard to find — it was my friend’s neighbour’s relative who made the one for my surprise birthday party my first year in Martinique. When I had one made for Tom’s 24th birthday, our landlady’s aunt made it for us.
The best part? It’s one of those cakes that gets better with age — leftovers galore!
Where to get it: Someone’s aunt’s house because the grocery store version just won’t do!
5. Christophine (Chayote) Gratin
The gratin dauphinoise is a staple French dish, but I love this Martinican twist. The chayote (also called cho-cho in Jamaica) is a starchy vegetable with flesh that resembles a fibrous, transluscent apple. In Martinique, you add a bit of four spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg) to the béchamel for a little zest and cover it in grated cheese. The result is divine.
I’ve also had plantain gratin (amazing) and tried to make a green papaya gratin myself (spoiler alert: I failed). Anyway you gratin it, you’ll love it because, cheese.
Where to get it: Chez Tante Arlette in Grand Riviere
A Trempage Créole is less a dish and moreso an event in Martinique! The Trempage (meaning “to soak”) is a typical dish of the island’s north Atlantic coast. Traditionally, it’s comprised of stale bread that has been “soaked” in a spicy codfish stew. It is then spread on banana leaves across a table and garnished with pieces of banana and avocado. It’s a big sharing platter that you eat with your hands!
Where to get it: During the month of July in towns like La Trinité — or Tonton‘s house, if you’ve got a Martinican one!
7. Poulet Boucané (Smoked Chicken)
This is the bo kay (local, in Creole) street food in Martinique, their answer to proper Jamaican jerk chicken. It’s a lightly seasoned chicken smoked over bagasse, the pulp left over after juicing sugarcane. The chicken comes out a reddish dark brown with subtle caramel notes.
The catch? It’s not so easy to come by. If you see a person standing next to a battered oil drum with smoke billowing out of it, you’re probably in the right place. A whole chicken will cost between €10-12.
Where to get it: Somewhere on the roadside…
8. Punch Coco
Oh, Punch Coco. I smiled just writing that. A homemade coconut milk and rum punch: it’s creamy, spicy, boozy, and makes a perfectly tropical aperitif. Simply: it’s the heaven that emerges when you combine coconut milk, condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and a heck of a lot of rhum agricole and let it marinate.
You can get Punch Coco year-round but it’s a traditional Christmastime drink along with Shrubb, an orange rhum liqueur.
Where to get it: La Sora in La Trinité. All his stuff is homemade — jams, juices, and liqueurs included.
9. Cassava Ice Cream
Cassava, called manioc in Martinique, is a starchy tuber that originates from South America. It’s one of those food staples people eat that I believe makes them tough AF — like, we’re out here throwing out day-old milk and they’re eating stuff that has enough cyanide in it to kill you if you mess up its preparation. Like, what is this life?!
Manioc is often grated and turned into galettes (pancakes) or used to make féroce (stuffed avocado) but the former are also eaten in Jamaica, where it’s called bammy. Cassava ice cream on the other hand? Now that’s pretty rare! The tuber gives the ice cream an earthy, nutty flavour — and from my experience you either love it or you hate it. I’m a fan!
Where to get it: Ziouka Glaces in Le Carbet. His range of ice creams and sorbets is on point, and homemade too.
10. Pain au Beurre & Chocolat
Okay. This buttery, slightly sweet braided bread is incredibly hard to make and I am grateful to all those who have laboured so that I could enjoy it because: Pain au beurre & chocolat gives me life.
The fluffy bread with elaborate designs is sliced into pieces and dipped in a rich, unctuous chocolate milk (almost a sauce). Traditionally, this dish is served at First Communion celebrations (which is why the chocolate is called chocolat de communion), but now you’ll find it at a lot of special occasions.
Where to get it: At your Tatie’s house — again, it’s one of those things where the grocery store stuff will only let you down.
I haven’t listed all the traditional food in Martinique you can eat, but it’s a pretty good start! What do you think about Martinican cuisine? Anything that catches your eye — or taste buds?!
- If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you’ll know that I SUCK at taking pictures of food because I always eat it instead. Thanks to all those whose pictures I’ve shared 🙂